Highly skilled teachers make the difference in children’s learning.
The first day of school is an especially exciting time for parents who are sending their young children off to kindergarten for the first time. What we don’t often think about as those grinning (or, let’s be honest, sometimes crying) faces head into the classroom is that they are carrying so much more than their backpacks. They are also carrying with them the sum of all of the early learning experiences they have accumulated during the first five years of life.
Most of us realize that our elementary, middle and high schools are only as good as the quality of their teachers, and the same is true for our early education programs. Research is clear that the skill level of early education teachers has a greater influence on what children learn — both academically and socio-emotionally — than any other factor within the classroom.
As every parent knows, teaching our youngest children is an incredibly complex task. I recognized this with my own children, and I’ve learned even more from talking with those on the front lines of early education. Working with young children requires a special set of skills, honed to know how to expand a child’s learning, while also helping children develop their personal skills and characteristics. For educators, that means everything from setting up a warm classroom environment with books and learning materials, to following a child’s passionate interests, to helping each child practice the foundations of scientific inquiry, to guiding conflict resolution in a way that reinforces values.