Early childhood education is a highly rewarding field. Ok, not always monetarily, but in many other ways. Early childhood educators get to make a difference in the lives of not only the children they teach, but the whole family. Seeing the wonder in the eyes of a child keeps me feeling young and helps me focus on the little joys of life. But its not always easy to feel good about what we do. Our paychecks are often lacking. The general population and even other educators do not always respect us as professionals. It can be stressful with long hours and few breaks. With this in mind it is important that we take the time to come together with others who work in early education to raise each other up and celebrate our shared passion.
This week I had the privilege to do just that at the Texas AEYC Conference in Dallas, Texas. Over the course of three days, I had the opportunity to network with a wide variety of professionals – college professors and child care teachers, early education mentors and trainers, day care directors and non-profit administrators. They worked in public schools, private schools, day care centers, family child care, governmental agencies and non-profits. Some had just started in the field, others had been part of it for 40 years or more. What united us was the desire to make a difference in the lives of young children.
I was reminded that we, as a group, have the knowledge and skills necessary to plan and implement high-quality programs for young children. We need to stand up together when we are pushed to implement practices that are not developmentally appropriate. We must be able to articulate to parents, legislators, and the general population not only what is in the best interest of young children, but also able to back up our position with valid research. We need to have frank dialogs with these stakeholders and share our knowledge. Then, in the words of one very wise presenter, we need let them know with our research-based confidence “Don’t worry, we’ve got this!”. Then, and only then, will they begin to see us as the professionals we are.
I encourage all working in early education to find a professional organization such as NAEYC to join. Not only for the considerable support they can give you, but also to add your voice as we advocate for our profession. If you’re already part of one, be active and attend conferences, meetings, and other functions. If you’re already active make sure that you personally invite other early education professionals to join the group.
There is still much work to still be done to further professionalize the industry. We need to increase pay so that people can stay in the field and provide adequately for their family. We need to provide more access to and awareness of high-quality training for both pre-service teachers and those who are already working in the field. We need to have more of a voice in setting the policies that affect young children But I am encouraged by what I experienced, and how we can come together to make a difference in the lives of all children.
National Early Education Professional Organizations:
Do you know of other early childhood professional organizations? Post them in a comment.