I couldn’t believe the advice settings in the UK were allegedly given to relieve the financial burden some settings face. According to an article posted in Nursery World, Educators are being advised to take in ironing, seek donations, work in their own time, do the cleaning and sell take away meals to families. What an insult to our profession! I was stunned into silence for a short while at the audacity. How many other professions have been given this advice by business managers? I dare say NONE!
This leads me to consider; is Early Childhood Care and Education a profession or an industry? According to the Miriam Webster Dictionary, “Industry applies to the producing of commodities, especially by manufacturing or processing, usually on a large scale.” A profession is “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation”. I am a professional. Maybe we should stop referring to our profession as an industry unless we are producing a commodity on a large scale, I desperately hope that children are not seen as a commodity, that would be unethical.
I would like to think that all Educators are professionals, that they have not only studied in this field but that they also constantly research and attend professional learning events near and far, in their own time and paid time, to challenge their thinking. With current best practice being informed by research, knowledge and experience it is important that we as professionals keep up to date and make the necessary changes to ensure best outcomes for children. That is one of our important responsibilities as professionals, we can’t consider ourself a professional if we do not follow current best practice.
Our career. We are trusted to work with THE most vulnerable age group; babies and young child who are still so dependent on adults, who most often do not have a voice yet, who do not get to choose where they want to be, and who need adults to speak out for them. The first two years of a babies life sees the most rapid growth throughout their life span, they go from helpless, reflexive babies to toddlers who can walk, communicate and reason. Then on to children who can run, jump, climb, draw, write letters and numbers, problem solve as well as master a language. These are the some of the most important years in any child’s life and children deserve the best care, connections and environments to thrive in. Professional educators have a responsibility to provide this, their status, wages and working conditions should reflect this.
It is NOT an easy profession. Educators are not always valued as professionals, often seen as babysitters and often challenged by parents and other adults in the child’s life instead of being seen as the qualified experts they are. Salaries are criminally low, educators could earn more in an industry where no qualifications are needed. Morale often tends to be low and staff turnover high, why would you stay in a profession without appreciation or respect for your valuable skills? This leads to a young and often less skilled workforce caring for the children who most deserve and need the highest quality care and education possible.
A total mindshift about the importance and value of Early Childhood Professionals is critical for the immediate and long term health and well-being of our young children. Educators who are committed to their chosen career, who feel valued and respected by parents, managers and others without the qualifications and who are paid a decent wage will be the motivated and strong advocates all children need and deserve.
Don’t insult our profession by expecting Educators to take on additional roles that are not in line with those of a professional educator, this will have a negative effect on the children and the adults and lead to early childhood environments that do not allow young children to thrive.
Treat professional educators with the respect they deserve, our children deserve this.