Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Teacher Models Emotional Intelligence

Thank you to the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) for permission to link to this terrific article from their March 2008 publication (Childhood Education). Author Sue Grossman courageously details the complicated and contradictory feelings a teacher may have for a student. It is only when we are this honest that we can learn to manage and transform our negative feelings. Then we can stop these hidden emotions from causing unseen reactions in ourselves and others.

Here is a quote from the article.

All good teachers try hard to treat each child fairly and kindly, with care and concern. Indeed, we are ethically obliged to do so (National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2005). As we are human, however, we may occasionally meet a child to whom we react negatively (Maxim, 1997). This was certainly true for me as a kindergarten teacher. It is not something to be proud of, but we must admit
it honestly in order to work through it and thus ensure fair treatment of each child.

The subject is only sparsely addressed in the early childhood literature (Checkley, 2006), and only a few references to teachers’ feelings about specific children can be found (Katz, 1995; Maxim, 1997). This is unfortunate; if ignored or denied, such feelings have the potential to do harm. Like steam in a pipe, feelings unexpressed or ignored will escape somewhere and may result in an outburst toward an undeserving child (Checkley, 2006).

Many of us have been taught throughout our lives to be “nice,” and that
it is unacceptable to have negative feelings, especially about children. We are condemned as heartless and cruel if we do not like all of the children we teach. Yet it simply may not be possible to like all children. As an acquaintance of mine once said, If there is even one child whose absence from school pleases you, you do not love all children!

Being Forced to Face Feelings
Passive children were always a challenge for me. I much preferred the rambunctious, out-of-bounds ones with spunk and energy, even if they needed to be reined in a bit. Alice Ann appeared to be a typical 5-year-old as I observed her at play with other kindergartners. When I spoke to her, however, she would stare at me, mouth a bit open, silently unresponsive. She seemed intimidated by me, yet I thought of myself as a nice person and a reasonably good teacher whom children should like and certainly have no reason to fear! How a child responds to you has an effect
on how you respond to him or her.

You can read the entire article here.

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