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Reflective Consultation: Relationships, Reflection, and Collaboration

“Reflective supervision requires much of us.  It requires that we look internally and externally, exploring our own feelings and motivations as well as those of our supervisees, colleagues, and families in care. It requires that:

Not only do we glance, but we look.

Not only do we hear, but we listen.

Not only do we act, but we learn.”

-Rebecca Parlakian

 Two key foundational ideas in early childhood education are that the work is inherently relationship-based and, to do it well requires continual reflective practice.  As educators and leaders, we must find the time to pause, reflect on, and analyze our interactions and the environments we create (both physical and emotional) with and for children, families, and colleagues in order to continually improve our practice and be the best that we can be for the people we serve and lead.  And yet, finding the time to intentionally do just that can be a challenge for school leaders and educators alike.  A support that we at the Efshar Project have offered to our ECE directors and assistant directors over the past several years is the opportunity to be a part of a Reflective Consultation/Supervision (RS/C) group. The group is co-facilitated by myself and Efshar coach/consultant Natalie Boscoe, and provides a regular monthly opportunity for intentional reflection and collaboration related to the work that they do. Our hope is that the experience of being a part of a RS/C group not only supports leaders in reflecting and growing in their role, but also, having experience with the process will assist them in better understanding how to offer such a service to their staff.

Reflective Supervision/Consultation is defined by Eggbeer, Mann, & Seibel as, “The process of examining, with someone else, the thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions evoked in the course of working closely with young children and their families.”   It provides a safe, confidential space where leaders can:

  • slow down and pay attention to the thoughts, feelings, and uncertainties evoked by this complex work of supporting staff, very young children, and their families
  • explore situations with curiosity
  • gain insight into themselves and others

Participants rotate presenting situations from their work that they’d like to unpack and support each other through a facilitated process of inquiry and reflective questioning to uncover new perspectives and understandings.

RS/C is not therapy, though it does grow out of the mental health field and a core underpinning is the concept of the parallel process. This refers to the ripple effect that ideally occurs when participants receive RS/C and experience the kind of relationship we hope they will provide to the staff they supervise, who will then, in turn relate similarly to the children and families with which they work and so on. The late Jeree Pawl articulated this idea in her description of “The Platinum Rule” – an adaptation of the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have others do unto others.” 

Though the pandemic has moved this group to a virtual format, a dedicated group continues to gather, share, reflect, and connect every month.  Feedback from participants reveals some of the direct benefits:

“This group helped me look at my own motivations, recognize the feelings of others and helped me have productive conversations with staff and families.”

“Being a part of this group has deepened my connection with other directors and helped me feel like I’m not alone.”

In short, providing RC/S to our school leaders supports them in their daily work and benefits everyone in the system in the long run.  See below for some more resources.


Tips for the Reflective Supervisor from Early Head Start

Tips for the Reflective Supervisee from Early Head Start

Reflective Supervision

“How you are is as important as what you do,”  -Jeree Pawl