Dr. Tamar Jacobson, associate professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education, will present a paper outlining her research in early childhood development at the prestigious Oxford Round Table on Women and Education during the week of March 17, 2013. The conference will be held at the Harris Manchester College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England.
Papers presented at the Oxford Round Table often become essential policy guides and best practices for a number of corporate, educational and governmental bodies, including the United Nations.
Jacobson’s presentation, entitled When Teachers Face Themselves: Learning What Makes Us Tick Emotionally When We Discipline Young Children, will summarize much of her research in her 2008 book, Don’t Get So Upset! Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings by Understanding Your Own. She says that the way adults who care for and educate young children understand themselves has an effect on the quality of their relationships and interactions with these youngsters.
“Usually when I present about teachers ‘facing themselves’ emotionally, I try to tell my own story to encourage others to tell their own,” said Jacobson, who joined the Rider faculty in 2005. “At the Oxford Round Table, I will probably talk mainly about how emotional memory is developed very early in the brain – in fact, 90 percent of the brain is developed by age 5 – and therefore, positive loving and caring adult relationships are critical for very young children.
Jacobson’s personal experience is not typical. She was born in the African nation of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where she lived until she was 19. She immigrated to Israel and lived there for another 19 years, becoming a preschool/kindergarten teacher with the Israeli Ministry of Education. It was an experience that steered Jacobson toward her area of academic interest.
“I first worked caring for very young children in a children’s house on an Israeli kibbutz in my early twenties, and I learned then and there that I wanted to be a preschool kindergarten teacher,” she recalled.
Jacobson concedes that her own childhood contained a series of emotional challenges, detailed in her first two books, and that she has “always wanted children to get a better deal, emotionally, than I did.
“Very early on in studying to be an early childhood educator, I realized that the memories children develop in their relationships with adults last forever,” she explained. “Therefore, how teachers react and relate to and with children is critical for attachment and positive relationships. All of this affects brain development at an early age.”
Inspired, Jacobson began to research and write about how teachers’ attitudes and emotions affect their interactions with children and families. In 1988, she arrived at the University at Buffalo in New York to begin work on what would become a B.A., Ed.M., and Ph.D. in elementary education, with a focus on early childhood education. While studying and teaching in Buffalo, Jacobson also ran the University’s complex child care center, which served children from 6 weeks through 5 years of age.
Jacobson also says she tapped into her international experience to fuel her research, an influence s revealed in her first book, Confronting Our Discomfort: Clearing the Way for Anti-Bias in Early Childhood (Heinemann, 2003).
“In this work, I focus specifically on how we developed bias and prejudice, and how understanding this can help us in our interactions with diverse populations of children and families,” she explained.
In fact, Jacobson says her diversity-related work earned her particular renown in the early-childhood profession at-large, but ultimately sent her toward a deeper look into teachers’ emotions in general.
“My second book tries to help or encourage teachers to face their own emotions, especially with regards to their feelings about discipline,” she said. “Looking at how the way we were disciplined affects how we discipline others.”