This week I gave a presenation for a symposium of childcare workers. It was wonderful to see so many people who work with young children show their care and love for their students! After the talk, one attendee approached me with a question. She prompted it by saying, “I know you were talking about what teachers should do in their classrooms–how they can communicate better with students–but I’m not a teacher…I run a daycare out of my home and I take care of just a few kids. But I was just wondering…” At which point she started to proceed with her question.
At which point I gently interrupted saying, “Wait a minute, wait a minute…you ARE a teacher!” She responded by saying that she did not go to school for teaching and was not a licensed educator.
I asked her, “Do you have children in your care each day?” Yes. “Do you interact with them regularly?” Yes. “Then you are a teacher. The children in your care are learning from you. And don’t worry about your official title, because children learn more from those who take care of them and interact regularly with them than they do from anyone who is simply their ‘licensed educator’.”
- Children learn from those who engage with them–giving eye contact, smiles, handshakes, and hugs.
- Children learn from those to whom they feel a similarity–a feeling of being alike or being the same.
- Children learn from those whom they feel are on their team–someone who is on their side, advocating for them.
- Children learn from those to whom they feel significant–a sense of belonging in the relationship.
- Children learn from those who exude love--when gestures of affection come from the heart.
- Children will learn from those who know them–a deep level of trust and connection.
This is true for anyone who is in regular contact and communication with children. You may not be planning lessons, projects, and homework assignments for them, but kids who interact with you are learning from you. You may not have a specific classroom, but instead any room in which you are present: this is where learning occurs. You may not be teaching derivatives, latin roots, or Mendel’s dihybrid cross, but every day, every interaction you are teaching the children in your care things they need to know to be successful in life.
- “I am important. I matter in this environment and in this relationship.”
- “I am nourished. I am getting what I need to grow.”
- “I am capable. I can handle challenges and recover from failures.”
- “I am autonomous. I have power over my choices and actions.”
- “I am safe. I will not be harmed.”
- “I am accepted. My feelings are normal, and my behavior is forgivable.”
These are the things they learn from you, their teacher, no matter what official title you may have. So if you think you’re not a child’s teacher, think again. You are. We all are. Children learn from the adults in their lives how to engage with the world, where they fit in, and the tremendous range of capabilities they possess. Academics aside, what lessons will you teach today?