Have there ever been children that you struggled to make a connection with? I have been fortunate to have a co-teacher with all of my classroom teaching experiences. This has given me valuable insight into recognizing how much of a role temperament plays in the relationship between children and adults. Everyone is born with certain temperament traits. Some of us naturally have a high activity level and are constantly moving and need to be doing something. Others are less active and feel satisfied without constantly moving and doing. Even as babies some of us were more outgoing, while others were more slow to warm up to new situations and people. I would describe myself as more on the outgoing and active side, but I had a fabulous co-teacher who was more on the reserved side. One of the things that made us a great team was her recognition and understanding of children with temperaments more similar to hers. I would be off on a bear hunt adventure with a crew of kids – our animated voices and chatter filling the room as we crawled under “logs” and swam through the “river.” I would look across the room and see her sharing a quiet moment with a child in the reading corner who wasn’t wild about the idea of moving loudly around the classroom in search of a bear. 🙂 I was so thankful she was able to make that meaningful connection.
One of the things we need to recognize in ourselves is our own temperament, how it affects the kind of teacher we are, and how we tend to naturally be drawn to those with similar temperaments. If we have a more flexible temperament, it can hard to understand the child who gets upset when the structure of the day changes a bit due to a teachable moment. If we have a high sensory threshold, it can be hard to be sensitive to the child that is easily irritated by his socks being on funny or a tag on her shirt. The challenge for us as early educators is not to try and change children’s temperament to what we prefer (this will only result in frustration for you and the child), but to recognize the strengths in the continuum of temperaments. An excellent resource has been developed by the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation. This tool helps you give thought to your own temperament, the temperament of the children in your program, and tips to foster the unique development of each child. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) also has great information on temperament and why it is our job to adjust with strategies that make for a positive experience for each child in our program.
What have been your experiences with children who have a very different temperament than your own? How can we share this information with parents who are normally quiet and shy when they share with us their frustration because their child is constantly loud and making noise? What can we say to very social, more “out-going” parents who are troubled because their shy child won’t hug family members at gatherings?
When I was a “new” early childhood program director, there was one early morning phone call I dreaded more than any other – the one from our cook saying she couldn’t be in that day. I can feel the muscles in my neck tightening up even now as I think about trying to get a hot nutritious lunch meal out to 100 children and staff in a timely manner. I have a comfort level in working with children and families – I studied philosophies and put ideas into practice while student teaching and as I started my career. It had never entered my head that preparing group meals might one day be a part of my job! Why I never considered this, I’m not sure – what is more basic in caring for someone than providing them with nourishment?
Eventually I felt more comfortable with this role – my meatloaf became a favorite menu item when I was wearing the chef hat! I learned I had a few staff who liked to cook and were delighted to have a break from the classroom and do something different once in a while. Go team! I learned a lot from the training and resources provided by USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program. However, we can’t forget that even if our full-time role is not to provide meals and snacks for young children (and thank goodness for those that do see this as their passion!), we as early childhood professionals also have a role to play in how children view and experience food while in our program. The Cooperative Extension System has an excellent resource on this subject. A final thought — make sure you are making good choices for yourself as well! Eating healthy will allow you to be a good role model and to also have the energy to be the best early childhood professional you can be!
What activities are you doing in your program to establish life-long healthy habits related to food? Are you using the new USDA My Plate in some way?
Welcome to Iowa State University Extension’s blog for early childhood professionals. Whether you provide care and education in a home, a center, or a school, we hope to be able to make a connection with you! Through this blog, we will discuss topics we know you feel passionate about such as developmentally appropriate practices, connecting with families, dealing with difficult issues, and public policy. The mission for our blog is to share helpful information and engage in dialogue that will bring early learning to a higher level. We hope to get your thoughts on what is important in our field and, through our discussions, lift each other up.
That's me in the red sweater with some of my Extension colleagues celebrating a birthday.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Malisa Rader and I have been in the field of early childhood education for over 20 years. I consider early childhood education to be more than a job, it is my professional passion. I have a bachelor’s degree in ECE and a master’s degree in early childhood administration. My background includes at-risk preschool teacher, child development specialist, early childhood program coordinator, and nine years at the Iowa State University Child Development Laboratory School as their parent coordinator. I’ll be the facilitator of the blog, but we will bring in others to share their ideas and thoughts as well. Most importantly, we want to hear from you – those of you teaching and caring for young children directly or perhaps serving as administrators or consultants. You have ideas to share about early childhood quality and practical suggestions to bring about necessary change.
So,why a blog? Because you and the work you do is SO important, and what better way to connect with each other than through the use of technology! I love how Better Kid Care cites not just what you and I “know” but brings in the research to back it up. Early childhood professionals need on-going support and professional development in order to continue to grow and learn. We hope to be a small piece of that using a few ground rules as a guide to our discussions. Please take a moment to introduce yourself to us here at Extension and each other in the comment box at the top of the page so that we can welcome you and begin connecting! No need for specifics – maybe how long you have been in the profession, what excites you most about the field, and an idea for a topic you would like to see discussed in a future blog post. 🙂