I’ve been an outspoken advocate about the critical need for elementary teachers to receive extensive training in child development. Typically, elementary school certification training involves very minimal educational instruction in how a child develops. In contrast, early childhood (usually PreK-3) certifications usually involve extensive preparation in that area. I have personally observed over the years how an adult with a strong knowledge about a child’s developmental stages, approaches the child differently. The adult seems to understand that some behaviors, while not necessarily acceptable, are typical for children at that age. That knowledge tempers the responses and helps the adult deal appropriately with any situation. This same principle is true with comments and discussions that occur with young children. Their perspective is different and young children often state facts as a matter of information. There isn’t any filter or malicious intent on their part, just a statement of facts. This perspective comes out in all aspects of the child’s young life. Recently, I was working in a school with one of my student teaching candidates. It was a cold, snowy day so I was dressed in a nice pair of jeans and a sweater. One of the second graders said to me, “Don’t you think you are too old to wear skinny jeans?” I could have pointed out the fact that they were ‘regular’ jeans and that I didn’t think I was too old. However, my only response was, “I guess I will need to consider that when I get dressed next time.” I responded this way because the child did not intend to be rude or insulting. He was just stating a fact that he observed.
I love the perspective of children. I enjoy listening to them talk about life and I enjoy their projects about what they see in the world around them. My Gracie recently looked at the Wasatch Mountains surrounding my home and painted her version of what she sees when she is visiting me. Below you can see the results. Understanding child development, which I think is key to working with children, is essential for all teachers. Just like early development, middle childhood has its own developmental stages, as well, and can help a teacher respond appropriately to all the children she may teach each day. That is why I forge ahead with my campaign about preparing elementary teachers with solid developmental training. To help my own perspective, I try to keep reminders, like Gracie’s picture, in my office and home to constantly remind me of how critical it is to remember the perspective of children.