The general experience of working as an early childhood educator
Working with young children is a joy because they are such intriguing creatures with amazing thoughts and imagination. Due to our understanding of how experiences and exposure in early childhood equip children with the necessary life-skills and attitudes that they will bring forth into their contributions towards the society of the future, we are well aware that we are touching the future as we facilitate their learning and development. Being a participant in the process of molding the future, is an amazing experience – for most of us anyway.
It should be entirely so, shouldn’t it? Well no, let me show you the reality.
Where on one hand we are filled with so much passion and joy, the amount of frustrations and stress early childhood educators face can get overwhelming too, especially when our working conditions can sometimes be really appalling and demotivating. Being an early childhood educator can be a physically and emotionally demanding profession. We are not only responsible for the well-being, development and learning of our students, we are also filled with numerous non-teaching related workload that can sometimes be carried out by cleaners and office administrators. As the cost of living goes up, we see our salaries becoming gradually insufficient. This is especially so for those with families to support. In addition, many of us are still not empowered to advocate for our students but are required by the management of our centres to fulfill the demands of parents… which at times, may be unreasonable (towards their children, and towards us). There is also a lack of recognition of the importance of our role and while I am not blaming society at large for this, I think at the very least we should not be insulted with the label “high class nannies” and childcare centres should not be seen as a place for parents to “park” their children (people DO say things like that to us).
Indeed by plain descriptions, these may not seem like anything at all and unless one experiences it on a daily basis, the reality of how demotivated and frustrated we feel at times, may not be truly understood. It is also true that working conditions in some centres may be better than others but generally, things cannot remain stagnant in exploitation of our passion for our work. I am aware that the leaders of the sector are looking into ways to improve our working conditions but we need to speed things up as a sector… before the lack of early childhood educators becomes a crisis and this will actually come to aggravate the negativity because it simply means that our already heavy workload will have to increase again.
Let’s reflect and re-examine
No doubt as an educator, I condemn the action because the implications on the child can be seriously damaging. However, I can empathise with the educator while at the same time my heart goes out to the child and his family. Empathy with an individual though, is not the same as being supportive of her mistake. Nor am I saying that she should not shoulder her part of the responsibility and face the consequences. She should, and she needs help as well (counseling, anger management, medical attention if necessary).
A lot of reflections are needed here, rather than more hurtful words which aren’t really helping. We are gifted with the ability to think, reflect and problem solve. Pure condemnation without a series of thought processes is simply a lazy and non-productive way to utilise our brain cells and the intellectual abilities we are gifted with. I think we are all better than that.
I would personally like to appeal to the general public not to judge the whole lot of us just because of one grave mistake or mistakes of one or a few educators. Early childhood educators are professionals who are well educated in child development, education and to a substantial extent, child psychology. We did not become educators to make life difficult for your children. In fact, I think most parents are quite aware that their children mean the world to us.
a. implication on the ECE sector – this will only deepen the fallacy that all early childhood educators cannot be trusted;
b. possible implication on families/ school community – this will cause misunderstandings between parents whose children are involved in classroom conflicts (e.g., “Your child bit mine first, why can’t my child retaliate?”);
c. possible implication on parent-educator relations – this will cause misunderstandings between parents and educators if parents feel that their children are not being treated fairly (e.g., “My child was punched, and the other child just got a time-out and some questioning?”);
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