I have to admit that sometimes I feel a little disenchanted with the field of early childhood education. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very passionate about the early childhood years, child development and the importance of quality caregiving. However there are days when it just feels like there’s something about this field that’s too hard. As early childhood practitioners, we struggle for validation, we struggle for respect and we struggle to maintain fair wages without raising the cost of care. There’s a great desire to advocate for the field, caregivers want to be heard, but at the same time, we’re tired, we have families to take care of and it’s hard to find the time to get on our soap boxes and tell the world to listen up and hear the importance of the early childhood field. There are days when I hear someone say “babysitting” and I have to grit my teeth. There are times when someone comments on how lucky I am to get to “hold babies and play all day” and although I do feel lucky to do the work that I do, I hate for people to devalue what I do every day like that, because they say it as though it isn’t work, as though it isn’t significant, as though it isn’t important. I find it so frustrating sometimes.
We might not always feel that we’re valued and appreciated on a large scale, but we make a difference to each child…
However the thing about feeling this way is that there are days when I think I want to quit, to leave it all behind, but there are also other days, days when instead of quitting, I want to push back, I want to make a change. That’s one of the reasons I became involved in professional development. The first workshop that I presented came out of my own request. I was an infant teacher and was frustrated by the lack of professional development offered for those working with infants and toddlers. There was one workshop, which had been offered two or three times and that was all. So I spoke up, I approached a few people who were involved with a local organization that put on professional development for child care workers and made my request, loudly and more than once. Eventually my name must have gotten put on a list somewhere because a while later they called me and invited me to do a series of workshops for infant care workers. So I did, and being able to share what I had learned in my own research and my own practice and to hear about what others were doing was a great experience for me, and I was hooked.
My involvement in a local advocacy organization, the Association for Early Childhood Educators of Ontario, came about in much the same way. I was always reading up on the changes in the field and talking to those I knew, both in and out of the field about the importance of early education and what was happening in the field. I realized that I wanted to make more of a contribution to support my local Early Childhood Educators and so I joined the board of my local branch. It’s difficult sometimes, coordinating so many people, and my involvement is a lot of work. However at the same time, I really believe that it’s worth it. Even if I don’t get a lot of feedback, even if there’s only a few people who respond to our newsletters and our events, that’s still enough. It’s not just about the many, it’s about the few, and I have to keep believing that every voice, that every contribution is important.
It’s difficult sometimes, coordinating so many people, and my involvement is a lot of work. However at the same time, I really believe that it’s worth it.
The field of early childhood is important, early childhood practitioners are important. The work that we do with children is really important. We might not always feel that we’re valued and appreciated on a large scale, but we make a difference to each child and to each family and that’s what really counts. Yes, I have days when I feel disenchanted about what I do, but then I think of the children and the families and I remember that what I do matters.
Photo from Flickr by David Woo (Wootang01)
child care, early childhood, early childhood education