by Dr. Jill Klefstad - UW Stout

Recently, I heard Tim McGraw’s new song, Humble and Kind. Typically I am skeptical of reading too much emphasis into the lyrics of songs but something about this song keeps tugging at my heartstrings. Take some time to listen to the song here.

and feel free to read the lyrics here.

According to the Urban Dictionary, the definition of humble is “an admirable quality that not many people possess. It means that a person may have accomplished alot, or be alot but doesn’t feel it is necessary to advertise or brag about it”. Merriam-Webster defines humble as “not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive”.

Over the past three weeks I have met with students who are enrolled in the Early Childhood program for the fall. These daily thirty-minute meetings include facts about early childhood education and how to prepare for college. However, the time is also spent reassuring students and parents about choosing early childhood education. To begin the conversation I ask students to think about one of their favorite teachers and ask them to say why. Student responses include statements that the teacher was kind and friendly and that they respected them and believed in them. During these conversations I speak about my own undergraduate college professor Roberta, who at age 86, remains my biggest advocate. I encourage students to look for a favorite instructor or professor on campus as well and stress the importance of having that special someone who will support them.

When I think about some of my “favorite teachers” I work with, I would say that these teachers are those who Tim McGraw considers “humble and kind’. These colleagues have chosen to become a teacher and make a difference in the lives of students with pure intentions meaning; they never look for personal recognition for the job they do. Instead, these teachers speak of their accomplishments in terms of what their students did. They speak with conviction about how to make things better for “their” students.

As a professor of early childhood students especially in my interaction with male ECE students, I find them to have an overall disposition of being “humble and kind”. These young men have a great degree of loyalty and compassion when interacting with young children. In the college classroom, they are highly considerate and respectful. Most of the time, I see these male students working extremely hard to accomplish their goals with integrity and honesty in a female dominated field. For example, when assignments are returned, the men humbly accept the grade they earn without bragging or complaining. They listen intently to the discussion and determine how to make the changes for the next time. I often marvel at their openness for learning. When I have observed these same men in the classroom, I see the spirit of humbleness and kindness prevail. These men welcome feedback knowing that it will make them better teachers. They verbally show their appreciation toward those who help them excel in their work with young children.

I am proud to say that this fall I will welcome five new male students into the program along with two male students who have transferred from other majors making the total of 21 male students in early childhood education! One of my professional and personal goals has been to build the number of male students in the early childhood program.

Perhaps the reason Tim McGraw’s song speaks so loudly to me is due in part to my favorite undergraduate professor Roberta, who believed in me. Through her unending support, I have arrived at where I had intended to go!

When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

And now it is my turn to help the next in line, the 21 men who are enrolled in early childhood education.

When you get where you’re going
Don’t forget turn back around
And help the next one in line
Always stay humble and kind.

[MenTeach: Dr. Jill has been working to increase and retain men in her education program. We asked her to write about her experiences as a woman facilitator.]