Reflection is an important part of our own continuous improvement process to understand why and how we make the choices we do. Taking the time to look at yourself and your work gives you the opportunity to acknowledge strengths and challenges, and to improve your skills.

  • Observe and remember what happens with children, families, and staff.
    Record children's progress, staff-parent contacts, and information shared between staff. This is an opportunity for staff to understand what does and does not work. Remembering and reflecting on our observations is useful for improving what we do. Recording our reflections in a confidential notebook can be a valuable learning activity.

  • Think about how your own experiences affect you and your work.
    This may be the most difficult part of self-reflection. We often take actions with children and families because they are familiar and comfortable for us. It can be difficult to question what we already know and think is right. Through self-reflection we allow ourselves to understand our personal reaction (how a professional situation makes us feel) and our professional action (how we choose to respond professionally in action and words) as two separate things. Because caring for children and families is so important, and at times very emotional, we need to be aware of how our personal perspectives influence our work. This strategy is aligned with the relationship-based practice of "reflect on your own perspective."

  • Think about the perspectives of others.
    Take the time to wonder about how others’ individual experiences may influence how they behave or respond in certain circumstances. However, keep in mind that sometimes wondering about others can be similar to making assumptions about them. We tend to rely on what we have learned and experienced in past circumstances. Taking this in to account, it is important to allow enough space in your reflections and interactions to acknowledge that you don’t know what may be motivating someone to think or act in a certain way. When there are opportunities to respectfully communicate about these circumstances with others, it can open us up to a greater understanding of others and ultimately, of ourselves. Reflecting on others’ perspectives helps us make better sense of where they are coming from and therefore what strategies might be most effective for engaging them. This strategy is aligned with the relationship-based practice of "reflect on the family’s perspective."

  • Identify stressors.
    Working with children and families is a highly demanding profession. When working with families facing poverty, community violence, social spending cuts, and a shortage of jobs and affordable housing, there may be an even higher level of stress and an increased risk of professional "burnout." A unique aspect of Head Start and Early Head Start is that many professionals are also parents in the communities they serve. Staff may feel the stress from both their own experience in the community and as a professional working with others in that community. Being able to name the individual stressors and talk about them with other professionals can help. Programs can create opportunities for staff to get the support they need and help them feel valued for the work they do every day. Staff may want to reflect individually in a journal or meet with colleagues and supervisors. Leadership can prioritize regular times for individual, paired, or group reflection. Promoting self-care among staff can have a positive effect on their skill and productivity.