Early childhood is generally defined as the first five years of a child's life. As a teacher in early childhood development, your skills and personality influence how children understand, perceive and react to the classroom environment and the world around them. Even though part of your responsibilities are academic, daily interactions that encourage social, emotional and physical development are just as important.
Because young children don't always exhibit self-control and have short attention spans, an early childhood development educator needs patience. Children don't always follow instructions or learn new tasks quickly, so a teacher must patiently repeat and reinforce directions and behavioral guidelines. Teachers must effectively address each child's needs and developmental progress, while maintaining open communication with parents and support staff. According to Laura Colker's essay, "Twelve Characteristics of Effective Early Childhood Teachers, "Good teachers have a long fuse for exasperation, frustration and anger." High-quality teachers are patient with student progress and work effectively with parents and staff to encourage growth and development.
Flexibility and Creativity
Without flexibility and creativity, an early childhood teacher loses her ability to adapt to change and inspire young lives. Due to the changeable nature of toddler and preschool classrooms, a teacher must learn to work with new challenges. Whether peanut butter crackers spill all over the floor or an outdoor play area turns into a rainy mud pit, a teacher must react positively to unpredictable situations, coming up with flexible schedules and new ideas to entertain and educate students. Creativity helps a teacher incorporate different learning styles into the classroom environment. For example, a teacher might use puppets, music or art supplies to discuss literature -- or create an inspirational science room by allowing students to explore magnets and magnifying glasses.
According to Laura Colker's article, early childhood teachers report that a passion for teaching is one of the most important qualities of a good teacher. Passion includes heart-felt enthusiasm that encourages development and often results in job satisfaction, knowing the work makes a difference. Even in a challenging classroom environment, watching a child grasp a new concept, effectively resolve a conflict or demonstrate responsible behavior provides a sense of accomplishment. Without a passion for the development of young lives, a teacher might wear out or burn out.
Young children respond to teachers who are dedicated and striving to provide a safe and secure learning environment. Trusting relationships between teachers and children often result in positive educational experiences. According to Jacqueline Zeller's article for the Harvard Graduate School of Education, "Early Childhood Education and Beyond: Teacher Child Relationships and Learning," "High-quality child care experiences support the development of social and academic skills that facilitate children's later success in school." The article also states that there is supportive evidence that close relationships between teachers and children are an important part of creating a high-quality educational environment. Good teachers are dedicated teachers.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.