Imagine this scenario: A parent drops off their sleeping child at Illuminating Child Care. The teacher and parent transition the child successfully without waking her up. A few minutes later, the child starts to wake up, noticing that the environment is different and that her mom is not there. Now, we all know what happens next. She starts to cry, looking around and trying to figure out where she is. The teacher, noticing the child’s discomfort, starts to interact with her at eye-level.
Lead teachers at Illuminating Child Care are building positive relationships with infants and toddlers ages 0-3, just as these kiddos are beginning their first educational experiences. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning says that “teacher behaviors such as listening to children, making eye contact with them, and engaging in many one-to-one, face-to-face interactions with young children promote secure teacher-child relationships.” And these types of teacher behaviors are critical to establishing a teacher-child relationship.
But why are teacher-child relationships important?
Relationships between a teacher and a child are important because they are built in agreement. Children agree to show up as themselves and teachers agree to create the environment and experiences to meet their needs. The child naturally needs to feel comfortable, responded to and loved in their environment. The role of the teacher is to influence the relationship and learn how to positively interact with the child in their care while also responding to the needs of the child. These teacher-child relationships create foundational experiences that influence trust, encourage developmental milestones, social and emotional regulation, healthy interaction and the ability to form secure relationships throughout life.
In the scenario described above, the teacher picked up on the child’s needs and immediately started to interact with her by using her name, using warm language and strategies that calm the child. As the teacher interacts with the child, she begins to respond to the teacher and settles into the environment.
In every teacher-child interaction, there is an opportunity to build relationship. The teacher supported the relationship by assuring the child she is in a safe place and the child responded to the teacher by demonstrating the ability to self-regulate. Teacher-child relationships are important because they are built on trust, familiarity, consistency, and following the lead of the child. Research from the Early Childhood Training and technical Assistance System tells us that “what you do to foster these relationships in your environment, interactions, and routines can have a long-term positive impact on infants’ and toddlers’ development.”
Teachers play a special role in the lives of children in their care. They create repeated opportunities to build trust in the relationship. And that’s exactly what our Lead Teachers at Illuminating Child Care are doing every day.
Patsy Bruce is the Child Care Manager for Illuminating Child Care at Illuminate Colorado.