Young children learn through example, repetition and love. Elite early childhood educators and caregivers know this and yet we feel frustration when we try our very best to provide it.
We also know that young children learn most efficiently through play because that’s the way our brains are designed. But it's not just any old type of play that teaches children the right things. (Bradley 2012)
Sometimes they can learn the wrong things when their play isn't supported by highly trained individuals who actually have the time to give the amount of attention necessary to support it properly.
Professional early childhood caregivers, educators and good parents know that providing this kind of high level environment and experiences requires skills, training and dedication on the part of the adults providing the care.
We sometimes feel frustration when we regularly have to explain well-supported and well-researched brain facts to those who believe otherwise. (Pica 2021 , Gramling 2015 )
I know through experience that providing this type of care requires providers who are mentally stable with high levels of self-esteem and a positive, caring demeanor.
Understandably and unfortunately, when an individual possesses these extraordinary traits, they often tend to gravitate toward jobs that pay quite a bit more than early childhood professions do.
After all, emotional skills are very important in the work force and gaining more ground all of the time.
But if you actually work hands-on with young children under the age of 5, like I do, you probably know about the conditions standing in your way. And you just may be getting sick of putting out fires in the classroom and in your lives.
After working with young children, parents and other teachers for over 40 years, I’m going to sum up 4 of our biggest concerns in the field. Then I'll wrap up with a call to join forces and stand up for what we know is right before the non-professional lawmakers completely take over all of the decisions that directly effect caregivers and therefore directly affect the young children that they care for.
Access to High Quality Training
A Place at the Decision-Making Table
And one thing that would allow us to do our jobs so much better is lower ratios of children to teachers. I can’t imagine taking good care of 3 year-olds with a ratio of 10 children to 1 teacher as is legally allowed in licensed child care in the state of WI where I live. But apparently it's done every day by people who have much less education, training and experience than I do. How do they do it?
I happen to know and it's really sad. They treat the children poorly in order to keep them in line and make up for the fact that they themselves are treated poorly by society.
“Many think that “just about anyone” can care for children. They couldn’t be more wrong!
If the job were simply a matter of performing a number of custodial tasks (as the low pay often implies), they might have a point. But high-quality child care includes something more, something beyond the norm, something extraordinary. The primary job in high quality care care is to offer unconditional love to other people’s children and “not just anyone” can do that.”
In an article entitled, “Who Cares for the Children?” noted author Urie Bronfenbrenner writes, “Children need people in order to become human…
“Recognized or not, love is the essence of high-quality child care.” (Baker Manfredi/Petitt 1998)
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If you’re already one of us, thank you so much for reading today. I really hope you got a dose of love and a sense of professionalism from the article. You deserve it! And the young children that you care for deserve it….
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human development from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI and is the founder of early childhood rocks!, a non-profit organization dedicated to changing the world through early childhood education.
Baker, Amy C., Manfredi/Petitt, Lynne A. Circle Of Love: Relationships Between Parents, Providers, and Children in Family Child Care, Redleaf Press, St. Paul, MN 1998.
Gramling, Michael. Great Disconnect in Early Childhood Education. Redleaf Press, 2015.
Pica, Rae. What If We Taught the Way Children Learn?: More Straight Talk about Bettering Education and Children's Lives. Corwin, a SAGE Company, 2021.