Becoming Your Best: Building Professional Competencies

The Assignment:

Summarize the attached article, in your own words, by answering the three questions listed below. Each question should have an answer that has at least 5-7 sentences. Please make sure you read the statement on Plagiarism. Also, do not copy and paste the article – that is plagiarism.

1. What is the main focus of the article?

2. What are three strategies/resources/ideas that are discussed in the article?

3. How will you implement the strategies/resources/ideas from paragraph two when working with children?

Grading Criteria

20 points – Three paragraphs are included, each paragraph has a minimum of seven sentences

20 points – First paragraph summarizes the main focus of the article

30 points – Second paragraph summarizes three strategies from the article

30 points – Third paragraph gives specific strategies/ideas you will use when working with young children.


Resources / Publications / Teaching Young Children / December 2019/January 2020 / Becoming Your Best: Building Professional Competencies


M y c a r e e r i n e a r l y c h i l d h o o d e d u c a t i o n h a s b e e n a n u n e x p e c t e d a d v e n t u r e ,

g i v i n g m e a n e x p a n d e d v i e w o f l i f e o u t s i d e t h e c l a s s r o o m . B e f o r e m y c u r r e n t

r o l e s u p p o r t i n g e a r l y e d u c a t i o n p r o g r a m s p u r s u i n g N A E Y C a c c r e d i t a t i o n , I

w a s a p r e s c h o o l t e a c h e r f o r f i v e y e a r s . A s m u c h a s I l o v e d t e a c h i n g , I a l s o h a d

a p a s s i o n f o r p o l i c y t h a t b r o u g h t m e t o Wa s h i n g t o n , D C . N o w , I ’ m h o n o r e d t o

h e l p t e a c h e r s h a v e a v o i c e i n e d u c a t i o n p o l i c y a n d s u p p o r t h i g h – q u a l i t y

p r o g r a m s f o r c h i l d r e n .

W h i l e t h e p r i m a r y f o c u s o f y o u r j o b a s a t e a c h e r i s e d u c a t i n g a n d c a r i n g f o r

y o u n g c h i l d r e n , t h e r e’ s g r o w i n g m o m e n t u m f o r t e a c h e r s t o t a k e c h a r g e o f

t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n . I ’ v e g a t h e r e d t h e f o l l o w i n g b e – y o u r – b e s t i d e a s f o r b u s y

t e a c h e r s r e g a r d i n g c o m p e t e n c i e s , p r o f e s s i o n a l i s m , a n d s u p p o r t f r o m m y t i m e

a s a t e a c h e r, a n a d v o c a t e , a n d a t r a i n e r ( a n d c o n t i n u o u s l e a r n e r ! ) w o r k i n g

w i t h p r o g r a m s f r o m c o a s t t o c o a s t .

1. Be knowledgeable

While many teachers don’t focus on their program’s general employment policies—sick leave

and vacation, coverage and break times, and health care benefits—these things directly impact

how you practice in the field. For example, knowing that NAEYC calls for staff to have planning

time built into the schedule, as opposed to the common expectation that teachers will do this

work in their personal time, can help you advocate for work–life balance. Make sure you

understand policy implications and participate in staff meetings in which policies are reviewed.

If you don’t know when the program policy reviews occur, ask for a schedule and to be included.

2. Be self-aware

In a typical office job, you can step away for a coffee break if you feel stressed, but the pressures

of coverage and teacher-to-child ratios can quickly make a teacher feel overwhelmed. Take time

for your mental health and ask for breaks away from the classroom when needed. You’ll be a

better teacher for the children when you’re at your best.

3. Be vocal

Working at an advocacy organization in Washington, DC, I saw that classroom teachers had the

greatest impact when they addressed issues like teacher salaries or class size from their unique

perspectives and experiences. I became much more passionate about speaking for the field

when I found that leaders listened to the real-life challenges I had faced in my classroom. I also

saw how many opportunities to influence policy we miss by not speaking up. You know (and

research demonstrates) how crucial your role with children is, so find ways to advocate for the

importance of early childhood education and increase support at local, state, and federal levels.

It can be as simple as posting on social media about your work or having the children in your

classroom draw and write messages to mail to your representatives!

4. Be ethical

Part of what defines a profession is having a set of ethical guidelines for practice. Doing what is

right for children starts with agreed-upon guidelines for interactions in your classroom, with

your fellow educators, and with the families you serve. When I was working in an infant

classroom, we focused on partnering with families to understand their specific preferences for

their child’s feeding, napping, emotional support, and more. I used the NAEYC Code of Ethical

Conduct to guide me as I developed relationships with families. It reminded me that it’s

important “to acknowledge families’ childrearing values and their right to make decisions for

their children,” especially when I felt tension between meeting the needs of an individual child

and supporting all the children in my care.

5. Be educated

While a degree alone does not make a high-quality teacher, it’s important to have knowledge of

child development. For example, through studying child psychology I’ve learned that toddlers

act out, such as by biting, because of some sort of emotional trigger. Biting is a way to

communicate distress, so instead of punishing the child, it’s important to figure out the action or

situation that causes the biting—strategies I’ve learned through child development coursework.

Even if college seems out of reach, start by taking a course or even attending a single lecture at a

local college. You’ll support the children better in their learning by being a lifelong learner


6. Be passionate

An easy way to start your own higher education or professional development path is to find

what motivates you to teach. For me it was American Sign Language (ASL), which became a core

part of my teaching practice. In college I minored in communication disorders, which is how I

learned ASL. From there, I used it with infants and toddlers. Whether or not the children had

diagnosed needs, ASL helped the children communicate better, which decreased their

frustration when communicating needs to adults and interacting with peers. Find classes you

enjoy—children’s literature, STEM, or even puppetry—that you can put directly into practice to

make your learning useful and fun!

7. Be mentored

Aside from deepening your knowledge, gaining experience is a large part of becoming a

successful teacher. I was blessed throughout my career to have mentors to guide me and inspire

me to be my best. My first mentor in the field—who continues to support my career today—

challenged me to leave my comfort in the classroom and use my voice to become a full-time

policy advocate. Invest in yourself by learning from experienced members of the profession so

you can continue to develop our field.

8. Be accountable

Take charge of your professional development. Your program’s leaders should be providing you

access to curriculum materials and professional development opportunities. If they aren’t, take

it upon yourself to find learning opportunities that inspire you. I am passionate about child-

driven lesson planning, so I sought out articles, books, online sessions, and conferences—

anything I could get my hands on—so I could learn more and share with my colleagues. Many

conferences offer great scholarships to make attending affordable!

9. Be equitable

I’m extremely grateful that I learned early in my career the importance of connecting with

families to understand their preferences and beliefs before making judgments about how a child

was behaving. This framed my understanding of cultural differences and gave me a strong

foundation for educating children equitably. For example, my colleagues and I had a few children

in class who struggled to settle at nap time. This was frustrating for us—as most programs do, we

used nap time for planning and meetings. The children would not settle, wanted individual

attention from their primary teachers, and quite often were exhausted (and fussy!) by the end of

the day because they did not have a nap. Before frustrations could escalate, we took the time to

discuss this challenge with the families. They explained that following their cultural practices,

the children never slept alone—which explained why the children wouldn’t settle when staff

moved away from them. We learned to recognize their cultural practices and planned for an

extra staff member at nap time to stay near those children so the teachers could still use that

time and the children would have that period to rest.

Setting the Standard for the Profession

With a workgroup that includes practitioners, subject matter experts, higher

education faculty, and researchers, NAEYC is revising the standards and

competencies that define the early childhood education profession. The revisions

incorporate feedback from two rounds of public comment that came in through

surveys, focus groups, conference sessions, letters from organizations and

individuals, and many other avenues. Thousands of individuals in the early

childhood field from all over the United States engaged in this process! This

exciting work highlights the importance and complexity of teaching young

children; it also creates a framework for ensuring that everyone in the profession

is well prepared and supported.

To access the current draft of the Professional Standards and Competencies for Early

Childhood Educators (and to access the final statement when it is published in late

December 2019), visit

This article supports the following NAEYC Early Learning Program

Accreditation standards and topic areas



6B: Professional Identity and Recognition

8C: Acting as a Citizen in the Neighborhood and the Early Childhood


Audience: Teacher

Age: Preschool

Topics: Professional Development, Professionalism, Competencies, Quality Standards, Standards, NAEYC Early Learning

Program Standards, TYC


Meghann Hickey is a relationship implementation specialist in NAEYC’s Division of Early Learning Systems. Previously,

she worked for the Early Care and Education Consortium in Washington, DC, and as an infant through prekindergarten

teacher in Massachusetts

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Teaching Young Children

December 2019/January 2020

Vol. 13, No. 2

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