Why We Need to Celebrate and Appreciate Educators Every Day
By: Luanne Gould, CHS Elizabethtown Center Director
During Teacher Appreciation Week, occurring May 8–12, we can recognize, celebrate, and honor educators for their lasting contributions to lives.
While this one week of the year is dedicated to educators, we, as an early childhood education community, must prioritize our educators all year round and look at ways we can support them – professionally and emotionally, as they support the children and families they serve.
Many Roles, Many Hats
An early childhood educator wears many hats: instructional leader, nurturer, communicator, facilitator, planner, lifelong learner, reflective practitioner, and advocate, among countless others. This role takes time, energy, and hard work. Early educators must be considered highly skilled professionals who are equal to their K12 counterparts.
However, there is a perception that the work of early childhood educators is low-skilled labor that does not require a serious education or decent pay, as they are mere “babysitters.” In reality, early childhood educators in quality early years programs need appropriate training, sometimes a degree or certification in ECE or a closely related field. This dedication and commitment to lifelong learning enables them to wear the many hats required of an early childhood educator, deserving far more respect (and remuneration) than society currently gives them.
Supporting Children, and their Families
While families are a child’s first teachers, early childhood educators play a critical role in the development of young children. These key adults help children mature their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills, preparing them for success in their future academic and personal lives. However, early childhood educators do not just support children; they also provide support to families. Many families juggle work and family responsibilities, and having a caring and supportive educator can make an enormous difference in their daily lives. For example, families frequently ask their child’s teacher about any developmental or behavioral concerns they may have about their child or ask for guidance on how to interact with them.
Additionally, educators help families understand what providing a safe and secure home for young children means, promoting routine and consistency and fostering an environment that sets children up to prosper. Early childhood educators help families navigate parenting challenges, providing them with advice, resources, and a safe and nurturing environment for their children.
Warmth + Support = Learning
According to a study published by Harvard University’s Center for the Developing Child, “Children who develop warm, positive relationships with their kindergarten teachers are more excited about learning, more positive about coming to school, more self-confident, and achieve more in the classroom.”
Children who feel safe, cared for, and even loved by their teachers are more likely to feel confident and secure in their environment, which can positively impact their development, leading to greater social competence, fewer behavior problems, and enhanced thinking and reasoning skills.
The bond between teacher and child, in this way, acts as a buttress to support other aspects of the curriculum. Educators who establish this connection with the children in their classroom can help them thrive in all aspects of their lives, not only in the classroom.
ECE has evolved over the years, with a growing emphasis on its importance in child development, as well as an increased scientific understanding of the need to build capabilities in young children. As a result, the knowledge and skills required to be an early childhood educator have also increased.
Today’s early childhood educators are expected to deeply understand child development, behavior management, and educational theories, among others. They must also be adept at using technology, working with families from diverse backgrounds, identifying potential behavioral or developmental concerns, and supporting children with all needs.
According to a Rutgers University National Institute for Early Education Research policy brief, “Better-educated teachers have more positive, sensitive, and responsive interactions with children, provide richer language and cognitive experiences, and are less authoritarian, punitive, and detached. The result is better social, emotional, linguistic, and cognitive development for the child.”
Take Time to Appreciate All That Educators Do
As we take the time to appreciate all educators, it is also an opportunity to think about how much work goes into their day-to-day job. While continually learning and understanding children and their evolving needs, educators function as liaisons and allies with families, provide comfort and care to children, and help kids become eager learners, setting them up for success. Somewhere in the mix, they must also balance their lives, families, and careers.
Early childhood educators’ work is challenging but incredibly rewarding, and they deserve to be celebrated and appreciated daily. No matter the gesture, we should take the time to show our appreciation for their commitment, encourage their professional and personal growth, and consistently remind them of the positive impact that they have on children, families, colleagues, and the early childhood education industry as a whole.