Preschool is the first stepping stone of a child’s education apart from home. They’ve learned to walk and babble, but now it’s time for numbers and the alphabet. These may seem like simple subjects to teach since every adult knows their colors and shapes; however, knowledge of a topic doesn’t necessarily determine one’s ability to explain it and make it resonate. Furthermore, preschool is not just ABCs and 123s. It is a foundational time in a child’s life in which they learn to explore and experience the world around them. They learn to socialize and their curiosity begins to spark questions. For this reason, it is essential to look at a variety of factors in evaluating the quality of a preschool teacher who will be giving those answers.
Let’s dive into the following factors:
- Education level
- Tenure level
- Amount of experience in education
- Personality qualities
- Disciplinary style
1. Education Level: How a College Degree Impacts Teaching
Just because someone without a degree knows their ABCs doesn’t mean they have the proper qualities and qualifications to teach it well. A teacher’s education level is one of the most vital elements in evaluating the success of a school since what they’ve learned can determine both what and how they teach. For a preschool to be considered of high quality, at least 20% to 50% of teachers should have attained a bachelor’s degree in education or another related field. There has been debate on whether preschool teachers should be required to have a college degree, as there are many factors involved in evaluating a person’s teaching capabilities. Despite the varying opinions, many studies have shown a positive and statistically significant correlation between a teacher’s education, the quality of care, and the student’s outcome.
2. Strong Tenure
A study of Texas Public Schools showed that teachers who exited those participating schools were less effective on average than those who remained. In this regard, the time a teacher has spent working at a specific school could give a valid indication of the quality of the school and that of the teacher. Having at least 20% to 50% of teachers with two or more years of tenure at the preschool can be a helpful gauge of excellence along with a low turnover rate between 15% and 25% a year if not less. A prominent cause of teachers abandoning their classroom is attributed to overall dissatisfaction with the career; therefore, a low turnover rate in a school could suggest that 1) it is a beneficial place to work and 2) the teachers love their job, care about their students, and have seen positive results in their years of teaching efforts. This then leads us to the next determinant of excellence, experience.
3. Experience in Education
They say practice makes perfect, so it’d be correct to assume that the more experience in the classroom, the more equipped a teacher would be to teach young children at such a developmental stage in their lives. A reliable base measurement for adequate experience would be at least five years in early childhood education. A school of good quality should have around 30% to 50% employed with this amount of experience or more. The right balance ensures that there are teachers that can use their expertise to help their students and to advise other teachers who are newer to the field.
4. More Than a Degree: Personality Qualities of Quality Teachers
A degree and experience in early childhood development provides the practical skills necessary to pave the way for a preschooler’s learning, but that’s only one part of the puzzle. Personality also plays a crucial role in the matter. At the base level, warm and caring personalities are best fitted to the educational career path, but many other qualities help to form an outstanding preschool teacher.
Passion and Compassion
Passion, a “strong and barely controllable emotion” by definition, is not something that can be taught, yet it is something found in the fabric of every good teacher. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a prominent statesman in India, said, “Great teachers emanate out of knowledge, passion, and compassion.” With a passion for teaching also comes compassion for students. The passion of a teacher inspires students, which is especially essential during a child’s early stages of life as they are newly being introduced to learning in a formal school setting. Maybe with these qualities, a teacher is not even a teacher at all, but an “awakener” as the poet, Robert Frost calls it. With passion and compassion, any teacher has a high chance of awakening a passion and desire for learning in their students, inspiring more so than they’re teaching. Passion allows them to gain the trust of their students while compassion will enable them to help their students, reaching out especially to those who struggle. With these two as the base, many other qualities follow.
Every person works at their own pace. This is especially true at the preschool stage, where most everything is new to the child. Some will learn things more slowly than others. Questions will be asked over and over again. There will be boogers and plenty of distractions, some tears and talking outside of recess, so patience is critical.
Energetic and Interesting
A teacher’s energy is what will engage students the most. They are the ones that set the tone for the whole classroom, so teachers should foster an atmosphere that encourages active participation and discussion among the kiddos. They can do this with an engaging and energetic teaching style.
Knowledgeable and Adaptable
It is understood that knowledge and complete understanding of the subjects one teaches is of the utmost importance in this field. With preschoolers, however, knowledge and understanding of how they learn and work best could be considered even more pertinent. As Jackson 5 sings, ABC may be as simple as 123, but maybe not to a young child. A knowledgeable preschool teacher knows the information and how to relay it to three and four-year-olds who’ve never heard of the Jackson 5. They must also know how to adapt when a child doesn’t pick up on it the same way the others do.
5. Proper Disciplinary Actions
At the Pre-K age, children are finding their footing, testing the waters, trying out different behaviors to see what goes and what doesn’t. With all these going on, discipline is pertinent, but disciplining a child, specifically when they are not your own can be a daunting task. Stephanie Byrne-Biancardi, an early education teacher, gives six disciplinary acts that should be practiced in the classroom and at home.
To Discipline is To Teach
It is thought that to discipline means to punish, but, instead, it means to teach. Receptivity to lessons is based on a relationship with the child. A teacher should build trust with their students, actively getting to know each one and how they act through daily routine and constant communication. A healthy and meaningful relationship will help the child to see discipline as a lesson rather than a punishment.
Positive reinforcement should be an active part of every Pre-K teacher’s classroom regime. Stickers and smiles are ways to acknowledge what a child is doing well and encourages them to continue that behavior.
Preschoolers tend to have a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. A good leader and teacher leads by example, modeling good behavior in hopes of the children following their lead.
Direct, Explanatory Guidance
The burning question on the mouth of every young one is “why?” Teachers should express their reasoning to students rather than offering just a “because I said so” response.
In spending a lot of time with a child in the classroom and in building a meaningful relationship, a teacher should take note of triggers to take preventive measures that avoid unwanted behaviors.
Preschool teachers provide the foundation to be built upon from every grade going forward, so it is essential not to take preschool education lightly. In choosing a preschool and evaluating its teachers, inspect the many factors that would affect the quality of their teaching. Their education, experience, work ethic, personality, and actions are all valuable measures of evaluation to ensure your child is getting the best education at their most developmental age and stage of learning.
Disclaimer: Percentage ranges discussed in this article are based on PrekAdvisor’s own evaluative criteria and guidelines developed over more than a decade of experience in the education space.