This week is National Teacher Appreciation week! I thought that this would be a great time to talk about the importance of early childhood education and the benefits to not only our children but for our society as well. I think that it is easily forgotten the value of what we do and why it is imperative for society to take early childhood education seriously. We are not baby sitters, and there needs to be more awareness about what we do as early education teachers. The last time I checked I never sat on a baby. When I was in a classroom, I was to busy keeping the children safe, educating the children, assessing where they were developmentally, and continually educating families on the importance and benefits of early education.
To go even deeper than that I was increasing the brain development of every child that was in my classroom by communication and cognitive activities that would give them the tools needed to develop the brain to its full capacity. I was educating my children by teaching them how to self regulate, think in depth, work as a team player, how to problem solve, and how to work in a shared space with others creatively. I assessed my children so that I could meet them where they were and build on their knowledge so that they could increase their capacity in learning but also I assessed them so that I could detect early on if the child may need extra assistance in any specific area. I would also spend many nights and weekends providing activities for families so that they would have a better understanding of early education and what they could do at home. My work as a classroom teacher did not stop in the classroom with the children that I cared for but also with the families. As I became a director and spent more time with the community, I worked on increasing the knowledge of our community on the importance of early education.
Early education is not just for children though; It goes way past that. Did you know that it is the foundation needed to increase economic stability? For every $1.00 spent on early education, there is an $8.00 return. This is through less money being spent on special education, less money having to be spent on welfare, fewer people going to jail, and less money being spent on educational programs to help people get out of poverty. The quality of life for a child and the contribution the child makes as an adult to society can be traced back to the first few years of life.
See how we make a difference. It’s not just that we keep children safe while they are in our care. It’s that we are teaching the future to make better choices and be prepared when they get to kindergarten and elementary school so that they can have the building blocks and the foundation to succeed in these grades. When you have the right tools to manage, then you can adapt to overcome more obstacles than if you are not given the tools needed to do the job. It’s like digging a mountain with only a shovel. It can be done, but it’s going to take a lot longer and lot more resources to move that mountain that just the one shovel.
So how can you start the awareness in your area about the importance of early education?
1. Take Pride in What You Do!
Don’t devalue what you do. You are not a baby sitter. You are an early childhood educator and professional. You have the most significant impact on the future of our world. It is imperative that you talk to people with that message.
2. Educate Those Around You
If parents don’t know or understand the importance of early education, then we can not expect them to understand why there is such a push for early learning. If they think that it is just babysitting and that you don’t teach anything, then that is what they expect. Teach them that children learn best through play with the teacher facilitating their activities with open-ended questions. Educate them on what they can do at home and what it does when you teach them at home. Some parents have no clue what to do with their children, and they much appreciate all the help that they can get.
3. Get Involved!
There are more and more involvement opportunities around these days. Become involved with the Community Early Childhood Councils, NAEYC, or other community events to push the importance and education of early education in the community. Get involved with state organizations. There are so many community action organizations that need volunteers or people to help spread the word.
4. Promote through your business or Organization
Social media is critical as everyone uses it these days to get their message out. When you find posts that explain the importance of early education share it. The more that it is shared, the more people the message reaches. We want educators and families to see as many messages as possible about the essentials of early education.
5. Become Educated Yourself!
The more knowledge you have in early education, the easier it is for you to articulate that information back to parents. I have been in the field for over 20 years and learn something new every day. I am still in college because I want to learn more about the field. There is always more information coming out every day. Stay up to date on the latest research and news through joining relevant groups like NAEYC, CEC, NAFCC, Build Initiative, Zero to Three websites. There are all kinds of different websites and organizations out there that have research and knowledge that is up to date and available for you to read.
Our teachers are our voice in early education along with children, families, and community members. We have to have that voice, and it will all begin with making everyone aware of the importance.