When I run a children’s program, I spend a lot of time looking for good staff. Specifically, I’m looking for traits and attributes that I believe really can’t be taught. One example is the desire to work with children, including the desire to see them do well and be happy–basically, a concern and love for children. I don’t think a person can work successfully with children without this. Another important trait is the ability to be alert and assertive when supervising children. To succeed at working with children in a class room setting, one has know be vigilant about what’s happening and then appropriately respond to inappropriate behavior. To be clear, this also includes knowing when to ignore certain behavior, effectively encouraging positive behavior, and acting in proactive ways to avoid inappropriate behavior (e.g., being well-organized and planned, among many other things). Some of this can be taught, but my sense is that the alertness and assertiveness that I have in mind is very difficult to teach. It seems linked to a person’s personality and desire and enjoyment of working with children (or people in general).
I’m curious to hear if you guys agree with me. Are these attributes critical for working successfully with children? Do you believe that these attributes largely can’t be taught or developed? If you believe they can be taught, what are some ways of teaching and training someone to develop these attributes?