Some 5 years back when I started my career in Early Childhood Development, it was somewhat a trend to have the least skilled, the least competent, the ones who just wanted to settle for a job as personnel placed in the Early years classrooms. Thankfully, the tables are fast turning, and here are 10 things you must know to guide you into becoming an exceptional early years teacher.
You, The Early Years Teacher
You must be open-minded: by being open-minded, I mean to be neutral, non-prejudiced. You must be liberal enough to be accepting of all children, regardless of their family background, peculiarities, and practices. You must drop the bias. Step in with a clear mindset, ready to relate with every child just the right way.
Decamp yourself from that school of thought that children are just children: Children are not just children; they are human beings with functional brains and a thought process just like you. They know what they want, and have the capacity to make choices too.
To further buttress the previous point, Understand that children are humans just like you. They are only little. And just the way you grew, they’ll grow too!
Settle it in your mind that the child should be respected too. Yeah, ours is a highly cultural environment that demands respect from everyone but children. We forget too soon that these children are great imitators, literally taking in what they observe around. How do we act so rashly around them and expect them to turn out magically sweet? Learn to talk kindly, not dragging things from them but use your words first, seek their opinions, say hello to them too. Use the magic words with them – please, thank you, can I, that way they even learn to respect faster.
Be ready to be a child too. You can’t be too serious and excel in this department. Yes, be strict and stern when you need to be, but also be willing to come to the child’s level. Roll out the mat and sit on the floor with them, squat and get down to their eye level, play their kinda games too, laugh out loud as they would.
To be a great children’s teacher, you should Have a natural curiosity in children, a desire to really know and understand them. Don’t just stroll in there because well, there’s no other job to do. Let your natural interest in these little ones drive you there (or at least cultivate it), else you’d be frustrated soon enough and may even begin to take it out on the innocent children.
As a sequel to the previous point, go on to Find a need to meet. Get sincerely interested in your learners, seek to understand certain behavioral patterns. Don’t just go through the motions else you want to be another disgruntled preschool teacher.
Agree in your mind that every child is smart, and has some capacity in them. It may not be purely academic, but they are definitely capable of something; and I’ll like you to settle that in your mind first. It is necessary to have this understanding because in the course of your dealings with parents, and the pressure of getting their child to meet up with some standards, you should be able to speak from a more informed stance and proffer some relief on the matter, rather than dampening the situation. This ability can truly set you apart as that teacher who is really worth his onions, and to earn that tag, you gotta have to put in the work.
Understand the different approaches to learning: Learning within the early year’s space has evolved from rote recitations to hands-on learning. Play-based approach, minimalist learning, theme-based approach, Montessori, nature led learning, all these are methods invented by early childhood theorists and have been adopted in early childhood education today. You’d do yourself a world of good as an intending early years teacher to do some substantial research on these methods so you can know for yourself what is obtainable and decide which blend to adopt with your learners.
Seek mentorship: Just like in every other career path, work world, or business endeavor, mentorship is key else your growth will be stunted. Look around for early years teachers who have been on the job before you and have displayed a high level of skill and competence, ask questions, request to understudy them, put in the work (and this is why you must have a natural interest like I earlier outlined), and it would eventually pay off.
Cheers to being that exceptional early year’s teacher!
OKOLI MERCY IFUNANYA
An exceptional early years teacher
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