Among many teachers in my country, Indonesia, preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers or teachers of young children were considered to be teachers who have less qualification. Many times they were being underestimated because they “only” teach children. Some people says that they were only accompanying kids and playing with them. Fortunately, that paradigm was only occurred a few time ago. Nowadays, people in my country started to see teachers of young children differently. They finally realized that being teacher of children is not as easy as it seems. To be a teacher of young children, someone has to have certain characteristics. These characteristics include the personal and also the professional ones. Some characteristic are just come naturally while the other characteristics might come naturally to some people and the others might need to do some works to obtain it but there are also characteristics that are ‘teachable’.
An ideal teacher of young children has to be playful. One reason that makes me enjoy teaching young children is because I like to play with them. I still remember the excitement and pleasure that I got when I design my first learning by playing activity in a kindergarten class I taught back in 2005. They enjoyed the activity but they were also learning at the same time. Besides, I can learn a lot of things about children while I am playing with them. Again, playful is a must character that a teacher of young children has to have. There are two main reason why a teacher of young children needs to be playful. First reason is because playing is a thing that young children naturally do and they were born with the excitement and enthusiasm to play. “Children’s live and learning are full of play.” [Liz Tertell & Jan Jewett - When Teachers Reflect pg. 1]. Second reason is because children learn best through play. By playing, children accomplish many learning goal and they learn lots of new thing during their playing time. So, it is obvious that because young children are playful an ideal teacher for them should be playful too.
An ideal teacher of young children has to love children. It is so obvious, right? How can someone do their best with something they don’t love? If a kindergarten teacher or a preschool teacher don’t love children, how can he/she work well with them? He/she will be doing his/her teaching without a ‘heart’. His/her work will be a mediocre work which he/she might not prepare his/her teaching carefully. Therefore, an ideal teacher of young children has to love children. When he/she has this love, he/she will teaches with passion and the passion will delivered greatly to children. Moreover, the ‘energy’ will transferred to them and it will make them responds to teacher better. Before I become a kindergarten teacher, I always found myself smiling and admiring children I saw whether it was in the mall, church, or in other places. Thus, I decide to have a career in the field that involves children and the love of children makes me able to pass all challenges I faced while I became a kindergarten teacher.
Those two characteristics above, playful and love children can be categorized as the natural character. These characters are considered to be in the teacher of young children naturally. If a teacher of young children is not playful or not love children, he/she might wants to think twice about his/her decision to become a teacher of young children.
Beside the natural characteristics, there are also characteristics that are ‘teachable’. Someone might not born with this characteristic but he/she can obtain it with some efforts. Those characteristics are communicative and good listener.
An ideal teacher of young children has to be someone with good or even great communication skill. Basically there are two reason that make communicative become a must-have character of a teacher of young children. The first reason is because children, whom they teach, are still learning to communicate. Many of them still in their period of gaining the communication skill. They still speaking and communicating with their ‘language’. Thus, it made communication skill become the vital characteristic that a teacher of young children has to have. By having a good communication skill, the teacher can communicate with children and teach them to communicate as well. Furthermore, the communication skill also important because the teacher is not only interact with children but he/she also need to work with parents. He/she needs to be able to build a good relationship with parents so that both teacher and parents can cooperate and be a good team to accomplish the same goal which is the learning of the child. This communication skill is teachable and the teacher can do a lot of things to improve his/her communication skill. Either it is attending a communication skill workshop or reading books about communication especially communication with kids, it is the teacher responsibility to improve himself/herself. It should be a part of his/her professional growth.
The other characteristic of an ideal teacher of young children is that he/she has to be a good listener. Children are generally talkative and they have many things to be told. They like to tell things to others. They might will tell the same story for many times and it just the natural thing of a child. Therefore, the teacher must be a good listener. By listening to children, the teacher will also be able to understand them better; the better understanding will lead the teacher into a better decision or future action, especially in designing the teaching and learning activities. Moreover, children will listen back to teacher if the teacher listen to them. Teacher cannot expect children to listen if he/she does not do the same. Since this character is ‘teachable’, he/she can practises and learn how to be one. There are a lot of articles and books about listening skills that are very helpful in order to gain this listening skill. The teacher are also always can ask to those whom they considered are good listener about the ‘secret’ of being a good listener. Yet, there is one obvious way to do it, that is practise. By having more experience and practising a lot, he/she can be a better listener and then be the good one.
Between the natural characteristics and ‘teachable’ characteristics, there are the other characteristics in between. Some teachers of young children might have these characteristic naturally and some others might need to do some works to have it.
Creativity is one thing that an ideal teacher of young children has to have. It is important for the teacher to be creative. Because children are unique and one method that works for a child might not fit the other child, the teacher should be able to provide himself/herself with various ways of teaching to make children learn best. If plan A did not work, there are still 25 letter in the alphabets. Having plan B, C, D, etc is a must thing for an ideal teacher of young children. While some people were born with these creative talents and they are naturally using their right brain more than their left brain, this creative skill is also something that can be learnt. If the teacher is naturally has more preference of using his/her left brain and less creative than other who does the opposite, he/she can sharpen his/her creativity by having more creativity skill exercise. There are a lot of brain exercise that can be done to balance the brain and improving the creativity skill, one of them is the Six Thinking Hat exercise that was introduced by Edward de Bono. Building the habit for thinking out of the box also will be very helpful.
Last but not least, it is the patience that an ideal teacher for young children has to have. Children are children. They are always be what children should be. Active, lots of questions, curious, and many more unique characteristic of them that might be challenging if the teacher don’t know how to handle it. No matter how good the teacher is, there will always be some challenges in dealing with children. Thus, the teacher has to be patience. If the teacher does not have the patience, both the teacher and the child could end in a stressful situation. Children do better with guidance, not with command. To guide them, the teacher need to do it patiently because these children are still in their period of learning. Moreover, there are some people who were born with this high tolerance and are very patient. It seems that they always have a big stock of patience and never losing their temper. But this characteristic is ‘teachable’. Someone can be a patient teacher if he/she know how to do it. Practise is always be the good way to achieve it. Usually, the more experience and more age he/she has the more of patience he/she will have.
There are still a lot of characteristic that can be found in an ideal teacher of young children such as cheerful, multitasker, good story teller, and so on. However, the six characteristics about ideal teacher of young children described in the paragraphs above are the most important one. Playful, love children, communicative, good listener, creative, and patience are six things that exist in the portrait of an ideal teacher of young children.
Submitted for Skyline College ECE Principle class - paper #3