Granted that all teachers are to be considered awesome, magnificent and highly instrumental in positively influencing students of all ages, it is the Toddler Teachers to whom I wish to give the Superhero award this month. They deal with the youngest of forming minds who also happen to frequently possess the shortest of attention spans, and are, as expected, totally dependent upon others for their daily needs. Being in school upwards of eight hours a day only exaggerates these needs. Think about the challenge of engaging such young pupils and in developing meaningful curriculums for them. These teachers help lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning, helping toddlers develop basic life skills and, in so doing, help shape society’s future.
While spending long days themselves in developing, advocating for and protecting our youngest children, Toddler Teachers must exhibit great patience, caring and love. Providing education in a fun filled, unstressed way is a critical introductory learning experience for toddlers. It can be difficult and frustrating for all parties involved if not approached evenly and with a good balance of organization, discipline and understanding. Toddler Teachers serve as the eyes, ears and conscience of these children’s parents, placing them in a unique position as surrogate parents. These teachers must simultaneously be educators, entertainers, storytellers, problem solvers, nurturers, hand holders, and in many cases, moms away from home. Toddlers’ first educational experiences can be pivotal in shaping their views of lifetime learning.
Toddlers must learn many simple, yet challenging skills. These include:
Dressing – picking out appropriate clothing tailored for particular events as well as weather considerations; how to put on a coat; getting in and out of a sweater; buttoning and zipping; putting on socks, shoes and boots; tying shoes (always a toughie); donning a hat, mufflers and a scarf.
Nutrition – making good food choices; eating certain foods with utensils vs. fingers; graduating from Sippy cups to open glasses; learning how not to spill; keeping messy fingers out of one’s hair, face and clothing; chewing food thoroughly but slowly.
Hygiene –potty training, awareness of wet or dirty diapers, hand washing, using tissues to avoid spreading germs when coughing or sneezing, brushing teeth, bathing, combing hair and generally learning daily hygiene inside and outside the bathroom.
Socialization – these early, repetitive experiences in pre-school are the beginning of developing skills in language, self-expression, communication, self awareness, self-image, self-confidence, awareness of others, fairness to others and making friendships.
Sleeping – learning that sleep and nap time or quiet time are important periods of rest necessary for growth and well-being, as well as alertness and optimal learning.
While all of these activities naturally begin at home, each of them are invariably repeated hundreds of times throughout the school year, until they are assimilated, learned and become second nature. Allowing these skills to be learned without intimidation, guilt or shame, but instead with a sense of fun and spirit of adventure make the learning experience conspicuously more pleasurable and positive.
Toddler teachers get my vote for making a huge difference in helping our children take a succession of baby steps which ultimately lead them toward self sufficiency. In addition, these teachers are prominently positioned to help keep our children safe and protected from accidents and injuries, such as falls, bruises, abrasions, cuts, toxic ingestions, electrical burns and food allergies.
I believe Toddler Teachers are exceptionally creative in the way they relate the Whats, Hows and Whys of daily routines to our little ones. Their job can be complicated by the many personalities of children and parents whom they daily interact with personally, yet always professionally, regardless of circumstances. The world can sometimes be critical of teachers in general when students fail. Through widespread excellence in teaching during these early years, our youngest generation’s personal, social and academic successes can be greatly enhanced initially and carried through ensuing educational years and into life itself.
Teachers are a constant influential guiding force in the formation of our children; through their gentle encouragement, patience and dedication we develop stronger students, families and communities. As the school year comes to a close, I would like to thank all of our teachers, and especially our Toddler Teachers for their many efforts and successes in advocating for and teaching the BEST for each and every child who comes through their doors. They deserve our utmost respect, admiration and heartfelt gratitude!