This posting will be a little bit more "musing", rather than practical into the classroom advise but the time seems right so bear with me and put your thinking cap on:
Whether you are a teacher or director in a child care center or preschool, a family home childcare provider who works from his/her home, a floater or an educator with a dedicated room (or as is the case in my home state of Alabama - a exempt or non-exempt center) - you all have one thing in common - quality is where your future lies. As the country talks more about high-quality care for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, we are beginning to get a clearer picture of how distinctly different development in preschool is from the school years. And as parents learn more about what quality looks like, that is naturally what they will want for their child and where the early childhood care business will go.
Now you've probably all heard that before
but here's what I'd like you to think about. . .
The national trends are moving toward more educational requirements (a CDA/Child Development Associates degree or even a four year or advanced degree in Early Childhood Education) in order to teach preschool children or to be involved in their care as an professional. Yes, it's hard to go back to school. But I'm here to tell you that you won't get any better support than from ECE colleges and programs. They understand as you do the importance of the early years.
Why do I need the degree? I've been teaching for 20 years you might say. I KNOW children. The challenges are that as more research is being conducted (which often confirms your knowledge), there is so much more we know about children's development in these critical early years. Attending training and gaining certification or a degree provides you with an incredibly rich foundation on which to connect what you've learned in the field and continue to grow your understanding of how children develop:
For example, did you know . . .
A three year old's brain is twice as active as the brain of a college student.
Talking with young children leads to important oral language development during the critical years when mastering the spoken language comes easiest. That in turn is a powerful foundation for reading.
Writing develops in stages with, often, the final stage of conventional printing not coming until kindergarten.
Conventional "perfect" printing only comes after four developmental steps.
Higher levels of training opens the door for raising quality. It also increasingly leads to more realistic, professional-levels of pay.
Quality is Bigger Than Just You
In my own community, I see a distinction: state funded preK is very much about quality, Head Start has standards from the federal government, several private, for-profit centers provide excellence services. On the other end of the spectrum, there are child care facilities who sit children in front of a TV most of the day (pediatricians recommend no TV for children up to three and limited afterwards within the preschool years). Children hear demonstrative statements like "no", "stop", "don't" more than they do real conversations. There are certainly child care providers all long the spectrum in between.
A practical way to raise the quality overall is to begin talking within the early childhood community. Sharing resources is another. Although often family child care providers have their own association, meetings and conferences, as do preschool care centers, its important to find time to talk together about your differences, your strengths, your challenges -- as professionals. That will raise everyone up. Talk to those who offer early childhood conferences and encourage them to include discussions about quality in their program and provide specific training for various deliveries of childcare service in your community.
I'd love to hear about your own experiences with becoming a more highly-qualified teacher.
What motivated you?
What have you learned?
How are the children you care for (and their parents) in a better place because of what you have realized about quality early childhood experiences?
What advise would you give teachers who are just beginning to follow that road?