Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Reflective of Them All?
One of the hallmarks of a great early years professional is reflective practice. By reflecting on your own practice and performance, you are able to see ways to improve and develop without having to rely on a manager's assessment. That said, it's pretty impossible to be reflective while you're keeping children engaged, taking a paintbrush out of someone's ear, and trying to decide which of the six children around your table needs a clean nappy at the same time.
One great solution is to record yourself. The best option here is to get a video of your interactions with the children. Depending on your setting's attitude to, and use of technology, getting permission for a video recording may be difficult. If this is the case, an audio recording will still help you to be more reflective. As your mobile phone obviously won't be an option, purchasing a basic dictaphone is a worthwhile investment.
As much as we all hate hearing ourselves on a recording, power through the awkwardness and watch/listen carefully to your performance. It is ideal to take yourself somewhere quiet for this reflective exercise, or at least use some headphones. As you watch/listen, note down everything which on reflection you could have been done better. We are all our own toughest critic, and reflective practice is useful outlet for such self-criticism.
Play it Back
At first you are likely to find this process uncomfortable - you might even notice yourself "playing to the camera". Getting into the habit of completing the exercise every week will soon help reduce this. You will be amazed at the simple, seemingly obvious improvements you can make to your practice. Many of which are only visible by reviewing how you work in this way. Perhaps a video of your activity makes it clear how rarely you get down to the child's level. In listening to yourself reading a story, maybe you notice how fast you talk. While reviewing your practice in the small world area, you could identify an overly frequent use of "no".
Give it a Try
Take the time this week to give this reflective practice idea a try. You'll be amazed by what you learn, and literally seeing/hearing yourself improve from week to week is a wonderful feeling.