Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

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“-Isms” are forms of prejudice that can affect children and families, but can also have a profound influence on educators. I have been incredibly humbled throughout this program to realize how privileged and devoid of prejudice I have been throughout the majority of my life. I have become much more attune to microaggressions faced by others and how to positively affect the reversal of these prejudiced behaviors.

When I began my teaching career, however, I had just turned 23 years old and apparently looked and sounded about 16. This is when I experienced ageism. I remember several parents referring to me as “honey” or “dear” and on numerous occasions and was directly asked my age. During my second summer of teaching first grade, I eagerly headed out to Walmart to heap my cart with “back to school” supplies for my classroom. Upon filling the checkout belt with my supplies, the cashier looked quizzically at me and said, “Well, what fun project are you planning to do with all of this, dear?” Excitedly I replied that I was restocking my classroom supply bins and closets with these necessary supplies that my inner city students could not afford. The cashier’s facial expression changed quickly from curiosity to sheer shock. “You cannot be old enough to be a teacher!” I smiled and told her that my University seemed to think so and my hard work and ambition allowed me to graduate my education program a year early. Still puzzled, she continued to stare at me in disbelief. While this situation was somewhat comical, there have been other times that I remember being faced with parents who scoffed at my age or did not take me as seriously as veteran teachers. These were parents that didn’t “expect [me] to understand” being that I was young, single, and had no children of my own.

If I had chosen to allow remarks and interactions such as these to negatively affect my teaching, it would have been easy to project them onto my students. This can quickly begin to give someone an inferiority complex. Children could begin to feel a sense of similar inferiority and lack of worth due to their age. This type of influence can lead to children developing a negative perception of themselves as well as low self-esteem. Children and families might also lose respect for my authority if my age was so negatively portrayed. Families need to feel confident that regardless of my age, I am highly qualified and capable of meeting the needs of their children, as well as others in my classroom. If families were to see my age as debilitating in some way, I could not effectively cultivate effective and successful partnerships with them. As anti-bias educators, we need to establish a welcoming environment that fosters holistic acceptance in our classrooms (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).

Reference

Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

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5 thoughts on “Evaluating Impacts on Professional Practice

  1. Renee,
    It really does come down to viewpoint doesn’t it? Whereas one parent sees a young teacher as energetic and full of great ideas and up to date teaching strategies, others have a lack of faith in their abilities and take advantage of the inexperience in the demands they place upon such a teacher. Ageism stereotypes also affect older teachers when one parent appreciates the assumed knowledge and expertise that comes from experience while others worry about their child being exposed to out of date teaching practices. However, when parents (and ourselves) move past assumptions and show respect for others by taking the time to get to know their child’s teacher, they can learn to understand and appreciate exactly who these teachers are and what they have to offer the children they work with.
    Sandra

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  2. Stephanie Hebdon

    Renee,
    Thank you for your post. I have had similar comments made to me in the past, especially when it came to people finding out I had four kids but looked “too young”.

    I liked all your ideas about how you could have let ageism affect you and your classroom. I agree that this -ism could particularly affect your relationship with families. As I re-enter the field after having been a stay-at-home mother for so long, I worry about ageism affecting the job hunting process as well as relationships with parents. I hope I do not experience biased behavior toward me because I am someone who got a later start on their career. I feel that although I am “older”, I have a lot to offer, both from education and life experience!

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  3. Marguerite

    Hi Renee,
    I find it interesting that the people who reacted negatively towards you didn’t applaud your hard work and efforts as an early childhood teacher. Kudos to you for being confident of your teaching skills and not allowing others’ opinions to affect your teaching!

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  4. Hello Renee,

    I find it sad to know that a person’s natural ability is limited due to age. I always wanted to become a preschool teacher. I began studying early childhood education when I was twenty-seven years old. At that time I wanted to new leaf in my life. I enjoy working with smaller children. It is common for a childcare practitioner to be already certified by the time they reached twenty-seven. Therefore, at my current age, 34, some school officials may prefer a teacher who is younger. So I try to focus on the important part; young children. Children are able to learn from a teacher who carries high self-esteem about themselves. “Young children need caring adults to help them construct a positive sense of self and a respectful understanding of others.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p.11).

    Tanya Terrell

    References

    Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, 11. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

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  5. Renee,
    I think ageism is taken less seriously than the other “-isms” that exist. You mentioned that your situation with the cashier was somewhat comical but the truth is that it still affects your feelings. Your age is your identity and its frustrating when people judge you because of it. I have experienced it too both in my personal and professional life so I know how it feels, but good for you for helping others understand better.

    Like

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