New Series: #1 The Early Learning Profession

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Hello, everyone! 🙂

I am starting a new series of blog posts centered around early education as a profession.  This is a very broad topic and at times personal one, so I will only be discussing certain points that have affected my experiences in teaching.  Please join the conversation if you have experiences you would like to share too!  Please like and share this posting so others may join in our discussions! 🙂 And as always, please remember this is a positive place only, so travel elsewhere if you have negative thoughts.

I love the field of Early Childhood Education!  However, there are many issues with the profession itself.  First off I want to point out how important early education is for young children.  This is a current hot top across our country right now.  And across the world early learning is a vital and very relevant topic of concern.  Think about how and why you value early education and what is it’s importance in your life?

Early education, unfortunately, has not been appreciated as much as research says we all should value its importance to young minds and the long term positive effects it can have. Too many early learning teachers are not actually teachers, they are childcare professionals put into the position of being a teacher due to how early education has evolved.  Many programs go by their state requirements and most early educators are not required to earn higher than an ECE degree.  I’m not putting down any form of career preparation people work hard for, yet I do not believe that type of degree alone qualifies most people to be early education teachers.  Professional development is in place to help early learning professionals continue to gain skills to better qualify them for working in young classrooms, yet the type of education still isn’t where I would like it to be, but they are headed in the right direction.  

Too much pressure has been placed on early education professionals to be teachers and so many preschools adopted boxed curriculums that could easily be implemented by those who are not actual qualified and trained teachers.  This makes sense because most preschools want the children coming to them to learn, but they had to make sure the staff could implement a program they could understand and have assistance with through each step.  This is not a bad thing at all.  If you go into a profession that does not require you to actually enter programs that would prepare you to be a teacher, then why would you need to?   After all going to college costs money and the more education you want, the more money you spend.  The profession of early childhood education has not advocated for higher education when they needed to, so the educational requirements stayed lower and as a result, people entered the field without actual teacher training.  The industry itself did not require higher education from the start, yet now they want everyone to have more education and are trying to dissect the early education programs in existence in order to say which ones actually are the most beneficial to young children and which ones are not.  Of course, as anyone would guess, the more qualified you are to teach, the better your program is for the children and the long-term benefits are greater.

I’m not bashing any early childhood preschool teacher or childcare professional.  I respect all who work in this field!  This is a wonderful career to choose, yet the profession itself has not respected the mainly female population of workers.  And they have not respected the children, the very heart of why we exist.  I advocate for more education for anyone working in the field of early childhood education.  The more knowledge you gain about child development, educational theories, classroom management, program policies etc. the more capable you are to teach our youngest population.  And those children will greatly benefit from having actual early learning teachers, supporting their efforts to learn.

It starts with people in the field taking the first steps to respect themselves and recognize the teacher inside them wants to come out and taking those extra courses to improve their knowledge.  No one stands in our way of learning except for us.  And we are the ones that bring respect to our profession.  We cannot always sit back and let others dictate whether our profession is valued.  We know early education is very important.  I really believe that all people working in the field of early childhood education should respect themselves and view themselves as being just as important as elementary, middle and high school teachers.  We are the first formal educational influence, we teach young minds from the start and we should open the institution’s eyes to just how important we are.  Living on poverty wages and not having higher educational degrees like our counterparts is just wrong.  Teaching young children is a respectable and important profession so why don’t we push to improve our quality of life.  Other professions that have much less of an impact on our future make far more for a living than we do.  Is that fair?  No, it is not.

I don’t regret earning my associates, my bachelor’s and my master’s and more.  To be a teacher has always been my life goal.  And I knew when I entered college after graduating from high school that teaching is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I also knew that I understood nothing about being a teacher when I entered college.  I babysat for years, and gained a lot of experience working with children, but I had endless questions and I knew I could not enter any educational environment without being fully trained and prepared.  I am so happy I did because my learning journey has only gotten richer and I value the hard work I’ve put into my higher education.  I often times think that those who have chosen not to take this similar path are really missing out on ways to teach and understand their young students. And the lack of higher education poorly effects their experiences as teachers and the children’s learning experiences too.

When we work for institutions that do not value us as professionals and look at us similar to “servant” status, we burn out quickly.  We start to devalue ourselves.  Our ability to be positive role models for our students dissipates and what is left is anger, bitterness, hopelessness and eventual burnout.  I have witnessed many childcare professionals go through this. While earning my degrees there were just a couple places I worked for that caused me immense stress.  Those two places did not value childcare professionals and the difficulties I was facing were not experienced by just myself, but the entire staff.  Turn-over was horrible and one week I would be working with people I thought I’d get to know and the next week they were gone.  When the institutions we work for do not recognize their staff as professionals, how are we supposed to value ourselves as professionals too?  Well, we are the first ones to see ourselves as professionals, so we have to pull ourselves up with our own strength and keep moving forward.

Obviously, I did not stay at those two places for long before I was lucky enough to work for healthy and happy early learning environments.  I kept going because my internal drive to be a teacher never wavered. The positive experiences I’ve had through the years have kept me going.  

Unfortunately, in recent years I did work part time for a childcare and it was almost exactly the same kinds of conditions I saw when I first graduated from high school.  It was really sad because there was so much potential for a great place yet the people chose to be ignorant about how early learning has grown and changed through the years.  And how early learning is a respectable profession with people that do care about children.  Instead, I found myself exhausted, stressed, not supported and the lack of knowledge from less educated staff and management made my time there not as happy as I would have liked it to be.

As a master-level teacher, I can honestly say that when early learning professionals are not trained to actually be teachers many classroom management and behavioral issues become problems that never have to be problems.  One of the first things I observed was the lack of understanding there was about child development, children’s emerging feelings, how to support children of different backgrounds, etc.  The childcare professionals at the time did not understand early education curriculum and the walls were plastered with coloring sheets, and pre-cut art projects.  Nothing original, creative or remotely appropriate for young children was being implemented by the staff.  I know this all sounds really negative, however, most of the staff there were good people, they just did not have the desire or educational background to support this being their profession.  The term “glorified babysitter” comes to mind because that is exactly what they were doing.  That may sound harsh, yet from my perspective, it went against everything I was ever taught or have learned through the years.  It bothered me that parents were paying for what they thought was a preschool education.  They actually thought their children were being prepared for kindergarten.  A worksheet does not mean a young child is being prepared for kindergarten.  If it looks like the teacher made it, then you can be sure your child did not make that piece of art on the wall. 😦

Early childhood as a profession is immensely important.  Young children start learning as soon as they enter this world.  The family is the first source of learning for the child, then any play-dates, artistic expression, and movement classes, sports and yes, preschool.  Preschool is the next and in some cases most influential for children’s future learning careers.  Childcare is also in the mix because many children are at childcare facilities all day.  Those environments are also crucial to how your child will succeed or fail during their school career.  Children are important so why not make sure that if you run your own childcare center or preschool, that you do the best you can at learning all about child development and early education.  Please do not cling to the old traditional programs of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s & 90’s.  Grab onto current research and implement curriculum and create environments that are truly developmentally appropriate and soothing to the children you care for or teach.  By respecting yourself and your profession you respect children too.  Take hold of sources and tried and true methods, but remember that research is always uncovering more and more about the brain and how children learn.  

Take the time to create aesthetically pleasing and stimulating environments for children to engage in.  You will see a difference in not only how you feel about the profession you’ve chosen, but the children will show you how much they enjoy the respect your giving their environment and them. They in turn, will respect themselves, you and their learning environment more.

Please share some of the experiences you have had in either childcare or preschool environments.  Did you work in developmentally appropriate workplaces or were they more traditional?  Please share, like and join the conversation!  🙂 

101_6013The Marigold School of Early Learning! 🙂

Heidi Scott, BA & MIT

 

 

 

 

 

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