Children’s early care and educational experiences have a distinct and long-lasting impact on their development, learning, and well-being. Positive experiences in high-quality early education programs contribute to later academic success, positive attitudes toward school, and children’s perceptions of themselves as competent learners. Extensive research substantiates the rapid and significant brain development occurring during these early years and provides evidence that a child’s first teachers have a powerful influence on all areas of their development.
Excellent early childhood educators understand that young children have a different way of thinking, communicating, and behaving compared to older children. Research suggests that the beginning of a child’s education is a strong predictor of their future success.
These teachers must possess specialized knowledge of child development and have the ability to employ teaching strategies that are effective with this age group.
For example, teachers of young children must do the following:
- Understand and apply the knowledge that young children learn best when they have secure and nurturing relationships with their teachers
- Support young children’s social and emotional developments, helping them acquire skills necessary to develop positive interpersonal relationships and to see themselves as competent and worthy beings
- Develop partnerships with families that recognize their strengths, respecting them as their child’s most knowledgeable and valuable teachers
- Understand how to support the developing reading, writing, and communication skills of young children, including the unique characteristics of dual-language learners
- Recognize when children may need additional learning or behavioral support and make appropriate referrals so they can experience the benefits of early intervention
Advocates of early childhood education must insist on specialized preparation for teachers of young children. Parents must demand that their young children be taught by qualified early childhood teachers. Colleges and universities must deliver teacher-preparation programs that specialize in early childhood education. State licensing bodies must require that teachers of young children have specialized preparation. Finally, school leaders must only hire teachers specifically prepared to teach young children. It’s what our children need and deserve.
Angela C. Baum, President, National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators, [email protected]