Over the years Ms. Padilla has almost certainly had kindergarteners who lacked some of the basic knowledge and skills on which early academic success depends - color and shape names, the alphabet, counting, and so on. Some of these children have probably come from lower-income, minority-group backgrounds, just as Lupita has. And in Ms. Padilla's experience, children who can answer questions and contribute to class discussions usually speak up or raise their hands, but Lupita is quiet and restrained. With such data in hand, Ms. Padilla initially concludes that Lupita has not mastered the knowledge and skills she will need in first grade. If the researcher’s videotape had not captured Lupita's social skills and proficiency with puzzles, Lupita might very well have remained on the sidelines throughout much of the school year, getting little assistance on academic skills and few opportunities to capitalize on her many positive personal attributes.
Long before they begin school, children begin to show significant differences in personality—that is, they show some consistency in their behavior in a wide variety of situations. For instance, Lupita tends to be quiet and well-behaved, whereas some of her peers are probably noisy and rambunctious. Lupita is also conscientious about completing her work, whereas at least one of her classmates must be reminded to complete his Spanish assignment. And she is socially astute, quickly tuning in to the nuances of others’ behavior and responding appropriately, whereas some of her age-mates may have little awareness of other people’s verbal and nonverbal messages. Lupita’s conscientiousness and social prowess will undoubtedly serve her well in the years to come. Her quiet nature may or may not work in her favor, depending on classroom tasks and demands. In Ms. Padilla’s class it works against her, to the point where she becomes almost invisible and so rarely gets the academic assistance she needs to move forward.
Children’s personalities are the result of both heredity—especially in the form of inherited temperaments—and such environmental factors as parents’ behaviors and cultural expectations. As you will see, heredity and environment often interact in their influences.
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