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Teachers have specialized training in child development and early childhood educa-
tion and have experience guiding the learning of many children. They see children living
and learning among their peers. In quality programs, teachers greet family members by
name, take time to talk about the program and their children’s progress, invite parents to
participate in activities or special events, and share resources with parents.
Teachers and families also work together to make decisions about the program, advo-
cate for children’s well-being, plan events and workshops, and create a welcoming com-
munity for all enrolled children and families. When parents and staff understand how
important it is to exchange information and work together, children benefit most from
All Program Staff—Regardless of Role, Education,
or Experience—Pursue Professional Learning
In high-quality early childhood programs, all staff are lifelong learners. A teacher’s profes-
sional journey may include receiving a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential,
graduating from community college, and pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Regardless, there is always something new to learn, and continually working to keep up
with the latest knowledge and skills in the field is essential to being an excellent teacher.
Supporting the professional development of staff may be one of your responsibilities.
You may authorize funds for tuition reimbursement, arrange for on-site workshops, or
include time in the schedule for teachers to take online courses. In addition, you will visit
classrooms to observe teachers and children in action. Thus, you must maintain excellent
and effective observation skills that provide clear, objective information about a teacher’s
strategies and how children respond.
Part of your role is to build relationships with individual teachers, to identify and
build on their strengths, and often, to serve as a coach. Here’s how coaching is defined
by NAEYC and the National Association for Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies
(NACCRRA—now known as Child Care Aware of America) in their Early Childhood
Education Professional Development: Training and Technical Assistance Glossary:
Coaching is a relationship-based process led by an expert with specialized and adult learn-
ing knowledge and skills, who often serves in a different professional role than the recipi-
ent(s). Coaching is designed to build capacity for specific professional dispositions, skills,
and behaviors and is focused on goal-setting and achievement for an individual or group.
(NAEYC and NACCRRA 2011, 11)
It is also important to note that “collaborative relationships and ongoing observation
and conversation are central to the success of coaching” (Jablon, Dombro, and Johnsen
Many funding agencies require early education program staff to write their own
annual professional development plans in collaboration with supervisors and trainers.
The plan serves as a road map, outlining how the individual will gain and apply desired
skills and knowledge in the coming year. Plans are based on individual and program
needs and interests. For example, a teacher might want to learn more about supporting
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science learning—a goal that dovetails with the program’s goal of enhancing the science
curriculum by providing children with greater opportunities to explore the natural world.
Teachers Have Knowledge and Skills and the Disposition
to Be Early Childhood Educators
Laura J. Colker surveyed a variety of early childhood educators to find out what attracted
them to the field of early childhood education, the skills needed, the challenges they
faced, and the rewards they reaped. Based on these responses, she defined the following
twelve characteristics of effective teachers (Colker 2008, 3–5):
1. Passion. Probably more than anything else, teachers report that it’s important
to have a passion for what you do. . . . Being an early childhood educator is not
always easy. There may be physical and financial challenges, for example. But if
you feel that what you are doing makes a difference, that sense of accomplish-
ment can sustain and motivate you.
2. Perseverance. [Perseverance is] the willingness to fight for one’s beliefs, whether
related to children’s needs or education issues. Teachers have to be willing to be
long-term advocates for improving the lives of children and their families. . . .
Children need and deserve teachers who can overcome bureaucracy and handle
3. Willingness to take risks. Successful educators are willing to shake up the
status quo to achieve goals for children. Great teachers are willing to go against
the norm. Taking a risk means not settling for a no answer if a yes will improve
the quality of a child’s education.
4. Pragmatism. Pragmatists are willing to compromise. They know which bat-
tles are winnable and when to apply their resources in support of children. . . .
Effective teachers understand that by temporarily settling for small wins, they
are still making progress toward their goals.
5. Patience. In line with pragmatism is the characteristic of patience. . . . Not
every child learns quickly. Some behaviors can challenge even the most effective
teacher. . . . Good teachers have a long fuse for exasperation, frustration,
6. Flexibility. Early childhood education demands that you be able to deal well
with change and unexpected turns. Whether it’s raining outside and you have
to cancel outdoor play, or your funding agency has drastically reduced your
operating budget, you need to be able to switch gears at a moment’s notice and
find an alternative that works.
7. Respect. Respect for children and families is basic to being a good early child-
hood teacher. [Respect includes] an appreciation for diversity . . . and the belief
that everyone’s life is enhanced by exposure to people of different backgrounds
who speak a variety of languages. . . . Good teachers create this environment
naturally. 16 Chapter 1