a little back story
I started this blog in 2009 as a way to chronicle the changes I was dealing with in my profession as a preschool teacher in a public school. My blog has expanded because I’m finding I like to write about way more than teaching but the “core” of the blog will almost always be dedicated to my work as a teacher – and I’ve just added pages to share my thinking and work about other aspects of my life! In the beginning I downloaded other people’s photos but I switched to my own work after a few months.
So – my “back story” and why I think it is important to know. I think my career as an early childhood teacher has characteristics that have implications for the work that is going to need to happen in this country to support those of us teaching young children. These are my thoughts and perspectives:
This field has not been recognized with the status of “real teaching.” This is probably a result of the fact that most programs have grown out of providing “care” for children rather than “education.” Often, people who are in this field have taken a variety of pathways to this work – sometimes intentional and sometimes not. Teaching credentials have often not been a part of these pathways and yet now, there is a heightened awareness that teacher training is going to be important – we can’t just put warm bodies in birth to five classrooms – and so colleges are offering programs to become certificated for birth to five classrooms.
I have peers who have come into this field credentialed as elementary teachers, others who have Bachelor’s degrees in associated fields such as Sociology, Psychology, and Human Services, and some who have just accumulated experience through time in the classroom. The difficulty is that with a new emphasis on credentials, some of the best teachers I know have no papers to substantiate their experience and no real system of gaining that status other than enrolling in ECE courses, getting their CDA, or working toward their teaching certification.
My own background is that I graduated with a BA in history, attended WWU to get my teaching credential (K-8), and then couldn’t find a job – that was in the last recession! I took a job as a teacher in a parent cooperative preschool associated with our local community college and I loved it. I worked for 2 years with one school, worked in a daycare for a year and then came back and continued to work in co-ops for 15 years until I was offered the opportunity to work with a school district. It has been an amazing opportunity. However, the preschool teachers in this school district work as “classified” staff members – even though 3/4 of us have teaching certificates. My hourly pay rate is a good one for the early childhood world, and I have benefits. But I am at the top of my ladder as far as pay goes, nothing I do will improve my pay or give me more opportunities as a preschool teacher.
I have been a preschool teacher now for 30 years and I think most of my colleagues would say that I am a leader in my professional community. I have taken classes for credit and clock hours and recently finished a 2 year program to be a Teacher of English Language Learners. But I, too, am caught in this change of status and am having to take Early Childhood coursework in order to maintain my position.
I am lucky to be part of a collaboration of Head Start and a school district which provides plenty of opportunities for professional development and my coursework is mostly paid for. I would not be able to enroll in these courses otherwise. But this story points out issues of equity – the status of preschool teachers versus public school teachers, opportunities for professional development and promotion, equity differences for early childhood providers in different systems and settings such as daycares and private schools, a variety of standards for training and performance between programs within a county, within a state, between states.
Most early childhood professionals I know are heavily vested in the programs we work for and we care deeply about the children we care for, but we don’t all have certificates to prove our worthiness as professionals. I am glad there is an awareness that teachers need certain qualifications; I am happy that I work for a program that is supporting its teachers in obtaining credentials.