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Good early childhood teachers see each child as a puzzle to figure out, not an empty vessel to fill, experts say.

“You’re trying to figure out their talents, you’re trying to figure out what makes them tick,” says Iheoma Iruka, a research professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at the university’s Frank Porter Institute for Child Development.

That’s a different framing than the traditional notion that teachers are there to “make kids smart or fix them,” Iruka says, and it’s one that’s particularly important for Black kids, who are “often positioned as ‘less than’ or not smart enough.”

Educators should see the gift in each child, Iruka says, and “provide the space, the opportunities, the materials to affirm them and engage them.”

U.S. News & World Report