One perk to my job as Early Childhood Program Director is the opportunity to meet with incoming freshmen that are interested in becoming a teacher of young children. During our time together I share the high points of being an early childhood teacher and the benefits of working at a job you love.
During these meetings I am quite aware of my dispositions knowing too well the impact of first impressions. Dispositions can be defined as a person’s temperament, character, or nature. It has become somewhat of a challenge to meet new education students in the face of the continuous attacks on teacher education and remain optimistic. However, because teaching is my passion and an integral part of my character, it is easy to be positive and honest about choosing teaching as a profession. From past experience, I have found that when a person speaks from their heart about a topic they know so much about, I am left with hope and eagerness. That is the message I strive to send to these new teacher education students.
These meetings are similar to the first day of class when we carefully choose the icebreaker that leads to a small snapshot of the students in front of us. Continually I am amazed at the wide array of student dispositions that transcend during the conversations. Even in that short amount of time, it is easy to identify the student’s dispositions and character. I have noted that some of the incoming students are very quiet while some are vocal; some are shy while some are bold. Some students appear to blend into the woodwork while others begin to make their mark. There are some students who display strong leadership qualities while others emerge as followers who appear to just go with the flow. It can be said that our dispositions can vary depending on the people we are surrounded by and the setting we find ourselves in.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting four male students who will be joining the cadre of young men in the early childhood program, thus bringing the total to twenty males in ECE! Of course while talking with them, my disposition could have been considered ‘over the top’ as I was eager to talk about the ECE men student organization, to show them the sweatshirts and t-shirts used as fundraisers, and talk about the mentor/mentee program that partners upper classmen with classroom teachers. That very same day, one new student emailed to inquire about the names of the other men coming in the fall so that he could connect with them before the year began. His disposition was certainly enthusiastic and I detected a certain level of leadership skills; exactly the kind of disposition we welcome in new students pursuing teacher education!
The past few weeks I have been working to foster a renewed spirit and disposition about teaching within myself. In my readings I have been reminded that there are three dispositions of highly effective teachers. These include curiosity, persistence, and reflection. With that in mind, I developed a list of activities that are helping me re-energize my passion for teaching:
• “Just say YES.” Summer seems to allow more freedom to embark on new adventures. I have tried to say ‘yes’ to one new opportunity a day and I am amazed at what I have learned from these opportunities.
• Reading different genre. Although my course textbooks for the fall inhabit my bed stand, I make a conscientious effort to read from various genres including poetry, non-fiction, fiction, comedies, and mysteries.
• Walking twice a day (usually early morning and later at night). While I understand the importance of exercise, it seems throughout the year it is something I just do to mark off my list. Having time to walk makes me more aware of the world around me.
• Touching base with someone “older and wiser.” At least every other week, I try to have a conversation with someone who has more life experiences than me. It is helping me to see that putting worry aside is a healthy habit.
• Practice some form of mindfulness including motivational tapes and simple yoga.
• Attempt to “do one thing that scares me” (Eleanor Roosevelt) and challenges me to move out of my comfort zone, at least once a week.
For teachers, summer really is not about ‘time off’, but rather about finding ways to rejuvenate our passion so we can begin again with a positive disposition.
Nelson, S (2015). Teaching, the most noble profession. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-nelson/teaching-the-most-noble-p_b_2471894.html
Highly effective teachers. New Teacher Center. Retrieved from: http://www.newteachercenter.org/services/fas/effective-teachers
Wirtz, P., Erickson, P., Hyndman, J. (2005). Why is the study of dispositions a necessary component of an effective educator preparation program? Retrieved from: http://www.usca.edu/essays/vol132005/Erikson.pdf