- First Year Teachers: Step Away from Influencer Culture - August 31, 2022
- No, I'm Not Moving to Teach in a Blue State - August 24, 2022
- The Best Summer PD? A Trip to a National Park - July 7, 2022
- No, Teaching Cannot Be Your Only Passion - May 26, 2022
- It's Time to Shelve Summer Reading - May 12, 2022
- Forget College Readiness, We Need Citizenship Readiness - April 29, 2022
- How Green Energy Can Transform Schools - April 22, 2022
- A High School Teacher's Case for Early Childhood Educators - April 7, 2022
- How Education in America Is Like the Wrong Pair of Running Shoes - March 18, 2022
- History Matters in Schools. Here's How I Taught it in my English/Language Arts Classroom - March 4, 2022
I knew that I wanted to be a high school English teacher from the time I was a freshman in high school. But as the child of a SAHM, I had also convinced myself that I was destined for the same future. I would teach for a few years, have kids, go to grad school while my children were young, and then return to teaching once they were all in school full time.
By the time my first child was born, seven years into my teaching career, I had to be honest with myself and my family. I loved my kids and wanted to spend as much quality time with them as possible. But I wanted to continue having adult conversations with colleagues and young adults. I needed the help of early childhood professionals so I could continue working outside the home.
During this time, I wanted the adults spending eight-plus hours a day with my kids to be experts. I wanted them to know how to best help my children learn their numbers and letters and how to read. I wanted them to utilize research-based practices to keep my kids inquisitive and help their little brains learn everything that they could possibly absorb. I needed to know that the teachers in their classrooms weren’t just doing their best; I wanted them to be the best.
Why Early Childhood Educators Matter
Why? Because strong early childhood programs set the foundation for the rest of our educational system. For some of the luckiest American children, particularly those who do not have a parent staying at home with them, their first classroom experience is in daycares that transition to preschool programs. Both of my children thrived in such an environment. From the time they were toddlers, they had caring adults around them. These adults guided them through the learning process with plenty of interaction, playtime, and socialization. Once both of my children entered kindergarten, they were ready for the challenges of a more rigorous classroom.
But this isn’t the case for every child. And this disparity affects all of our students the further they get down the education road.
Early childhood programs should be the model on which the rest of our system lies: play and inquiry-based education directed by teachers who have educational experience and an understanding of the brain science behind their pedagogy."After nearly 20 years of teaching young people and trying my hardest to mold them into young adults, I’ve concluded that we need to do better by them from the very beginning." Click To Tweet
Early Childhood Educators Are Underpaid and Undervalued
We should want early childhood experts setting the tone for our system. Instead, we’ve disrespected the profession, demoting the job to a nearly minimum wage position with a high turnover rate. The average cost of daycare in the US is $8355. The average price for a preschool program ranges from 4,460 to $13,158 a year. Yet, as of 2020, the median salary for a preschool teacher is $31,930. There are many wonderful and bright individuals, mostly women of color, who are caring for our youngest students. But they are not being retained. And many lack access to training to understand the how and the why of what they are doing with children every single day.
Why does this matter so much to me? Because these small children will someday be in my high school English classroom. After nearly 20 years of teaching young people and trying my hardest to mold them into young adults, I’ve concluded that we need to do better by them from the very beginning.
A Mom's Case for Early Childhood Educators
In addition to being a high school English teacher, I’ve been a mom for nearly thirteen years. I love my own children. I love spending time with them, I love watching them grow, and I love just sitting and talking to them. They are some of my favorite people in this world.
But I never could have been their early childhood teachers.
I have an active imagination, but I struggle to think like a four-year-old. I love to read children’s books out loud and have treasured storytime with both of my own kids. But I can’t handle multiple interruptions by several voices at once. I find the viewpoints of small children entertaining, but I crave the semi-adult conversations I get to have with teenagers. And while literacy is the foundation of my profession, I have no idea how to teach kids how to read. This became painfully apparent when our book-loving son was taking his sweet time learning all of his letters and numbers.
How We Can Respect Early Childhood Educators
The teachers who helped my children learn to read and write are my heroes. And because they are my heroes, I believe that we should be seeking the best and the brightest to be early childhood educators. We should be creating education and career paths for those who are already lovingly working with our children, but have been unable to get a college education. And we should treat these educators like the experts in early childhood development that we need them to be.
We need to stop telling young men and women – but let’s be honest, most of them are women – that they are too smart for careers in early childhood. We need to break the belief that early childhood educators are “just” caretakers instead of teachers. We need to bust the myth that early childhood is an easy educational career path and that it is only for women, because neither of those beliefs are true. We need to put energy into building a strong foundation on which the rest of our educational system is built.
Equality isn’t just about treating women equally. It's also about treating the professions frequently held by women with enough respect that men want to join as well. It’s about the career not being considered “too good” or “too feminine” or “not challenging enough" for men. Let's celebrate it as a career for anyone who loves children and wants to be a part of developing their futures. It’s about the individuals in early childhood being trained as experts and paid for their expertise. And it’s about listening to them when they tell us that we have our early childhood goals all wrong and supporting their efforts to reform a broken system, reforms which will benefit all levels of education for generations.
This high school teacher and mom of two has learned to value what my early childhood colleagues have to offer. It’s time for the rest of the country to catch up.
High school students' road to success begins early. Let's train and pay early childhood educators what they deserve and make the whole education system stronger.
Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this article, please become a Patreon supporter by clicking here.