Reflections on Inner Qualities of Early Childhood Educators

According to Laura J. Colker (2008), a curriculum developer and teacher trainer, there are twelve characteristics that make Early Childhood Educators effective. Since environment is important to children’s learning, the educators are expected to be passionate, persevering, willing to take risks, pragmatic, patient, flexible, respectful, creative, authentic, has a love of learning, has high energy, and has a sense of humour (Colker, 2008). And as discussed in Class 1 (EDUC16800, January 12, 2016), highly trained, responsive, and caring educators are key to quality child care.

Part A: Two Inner Qualities That I Value to be an Effective Early Childhood Educator

I believe that those twelve characteristics enumerated by Colker, and more, are important as an Early Childhood Educator, but I value passion and respect above all.

Passion

Having passion as an Early Childhood Educator means that there is great enthusiasm for taking care of and facilitating young children’s learning and adaptation to their environment. It means loving what you do as an educator and feeling excited to see children’s faces light up as they begin to understand a concept or as they enjoy their activities. It means having the mindset of changing the world one little person at a time, despite any challenges that may come.

Passion is important in being an effective Early Childhood Educator because it gives you the drive to continue what you do day in and day out. It gives you the energy to keep up with the active little ones no matter how tiring the previous day was. It helps you persevere through the challenges of changing societal, parental, and legal expectations. Passion puts a smile on your face at the end of a long day’s work.

Respect

Similarly, respect encompasses many aspects of being an educator. It involves recognition and regard of others’ opinions, cultures, and beliefs. It also includes appreciation and valuing of property and of the environment.

Being respectful breaks down communication barriers and conflict. It allows children to explore their own cultures and form their own beliefs. It allows for a beginner’s mindset in which the educator sees each child as a newborn every day; a blank slate that is given many chances to learn and to make mistakes on a daily basis. It is an emulation worthy of imitation, creating a safe and positive space for young minds to flourish in.

Part B: Practical Strategies for the Application of the Two Inner Qualities I Value Most

Passion and respect are two inner qualities that I value most to be an effective Early Childhood Educator. Together, these two support in building up sensitive, responsive, and caring educators. Passionate educators enjoy learning and developing professionally, as well as teaching and facilitating children’s learning, while valuing respect gives them the ability to be flexible and open-minded, and to distinguish between personal needs and the children’s needs.

Passion Reflected

A passionate educator creates a supportive early learning environment that fosters initiative, autonomy, and independence. She provides open-ended materials that are “developmentally appropriate” (Tate, 2016b) to coax a child’s initiative. This promotes choice and decision-making, allowing for the child to explore her own interests and discover answers to her curiosity. In addition, according to Deb Curtis and Margie Carter, “[e]nvironments should provide opportunities for children to feel the power of their bodies and ideas” (2015, p. 24). Thus, it is important to create an active, play-based environment wherein these open-ended materials exist. The educator’s passion translates onto her “recogniz[ing] and encourag[ing] the child’s reasoning and problem solving” (Tate, 2016a) as she allows the child “to do things for [herself]” (Tate, 2016b), to “explore, manipulate, combine and transform materials [she chooses]” (Tate, 2016a), and to express herself through language.

Furthermore, arranging the active, play-based environment into interest areas “encourage[s] engagement of children”, “foster[s] decision making, problem solving, inquiry and exploration”, and “promote[s] independence” (Tate, 2016d). Organizing the environment into interest areas “requires observing and listening [to the children], and careful thinking and rethinking, ideally through a process that gathers the perspectives and investment of others” (Curtis & Carter, 2015, p. 30). Here, then, the educator utilizes her passion and drive to persevere through any challenges she may face. Curtis and Carter suggest that she “[s]eek out people who are forging ahead, find ways to reflect on the intent of regulations and assessment tools, and go beyond compliance as a definition of providing quality” (2015, p. 31). Her enthusiasm enables her to reach out to others and to persist through the tasks of creating an active, play-based environment divided into interest areas filled with open-ended materials despite any undesirable encounters.

Respect Modelled

Likewise, an educator who values and exhibits respect creates a supportive early learning environment that nurtures trust, cooperation, empathy, and self-confidence. She establishes a prosocial environment “where behaviours benefit others and demonstrate a presence of a social conscience and regard for the rights of others” (Tate, 2016c). She creates this atmosphere by “handl[ing] aggression positively”, “enforce[ing] appropriate rules”, “protect[ing] individual rights”, and “provid[ing] affirmation, affection, [and] acceptance” (Tate, 2016c). All these actions reflect having respect for others and for property, and “model[ling] [this] appropriate behaviour” (Tate, 2016c) further enriches the establishment of a prosocial environment.

The materials chosen also play a significant part in the educator’s portrayal of respect in the early learning environment. Firstly, “[m]aterials should reflect children’s interests, . . . experience, [and] culture” (Tate, 2016b), as well as “reflect diversity in an unbiased way” (Tate, 2016b). By representing the children’s interests, experience, and culture through the materials available in the play space, the educator shows respect for each child as an individual. She also illustrates respect for others and for diversity as the children interact with these materials and with each other. Secondly, labelling these materials’ storages appropriately goes a long way in letting the child know that she is respected and that the materials need to be respected. By choosing the appropriate level of labelling according to the child’s developmental level, the educator demonstrates respect for the child’s learning and development needs. As the child decodes the labels accordingly, she “feel[s] better about [herself], [becomes] less frustrated, and [becomes] more cooperative” (Tate, 2016d). The child also exercises her independence and initiative as she is able to “find things easily and put them away” without needing extra help (Tate, 2016d). Moreover, this teaches the child respect as she takes proper care of the materials and returns them into their proper places.

Conclusion

Passion and respect can translate into the early learning environment in various ways. For instance, an educator’s enthusiasm allows her to project this passion and encourage the children in pursuing their own interests through independence, autonomy, and initiative by providing open-ended materials, creating an active, play-based environment, and dividing this space into interest areas. Additionally, in establishing a prosocial environment and offering materials that reflect children’s individuality and diversity, and arranging appropriately-labelled storage spaces, the educator models respect and the children learns respect accordingly.

References

Colker, Laura J. (2008). Twelve Characteristics of Effective Early Childhood Teachers. Beyond the Journal: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Curtis, D., Carter, M. (2015). Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments. Canada: Redleaf Press.

Tate, J. (2016a). Module 1: Quality Indicators in Early Learning Environments [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

Tate, J. (2016b). Module 2.1: Creating a Supportive and Inclusive Learning Environment [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

Tate, J. (2016c). Module 2.2: Creating a Nurturing and Responsive Classroom Culture [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

Tate, J. (2016d). Module 3.1: Organizing the Early Learning Classroom for Play [Lecture Notes]. Sheridan College.

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