Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is ECE Most Afraid Of?

A quiet, unassuming discussion group on the LinkedIn Zero to Three Discussion forum highlights an  interesting divide between providers that points to some very different views of what the field of Early Learning should look like, and how providers view themselves.  The discussion about how ECE can attract well-educated professionals to the field turned towards how low pay keeps people from staying in the field and colleges from recommending their students to go into ECE.  However, there are those (few admittedly on this discussion group) who do not see pay as the issue, and point to the fact that they went into the field because they love children, not for the pay.

This brings me back to my early days in the field when I started working with my local Worthy Wage campaign, and people would say to me that if I really loved children I wouldn't ask for more pay and others said they didn't want anyone to think that they were just in it for the money.  And that is the greatest fear of some of those in the field- that if they ask for a living (or, God forbid, a professional) wage they will be viewed as being selfish.  And no one wants to be seen as selfish so the field perpetuates a sense of martyrdom within itself by focusing on affordability at the expense of wages for the professionals who provide direct services to children.

And while it is absolutely essential that the people in this field love children does that mean that they should be martyrs who sacrifice their standard of living? And does relying on people who see themselves this way really meet the needs of children and their families? It is time for ECE to reflect on these issues within our programs and in the larger Early Learning community.  This is not just an exercise in the hypothetical though, how ECE providers view themselves will determine how the rest of society sees the field and ultimately what the field evolves into.   

1 comment:

Connie - Little Stars Learning said...

I think there is actually a greater division to be made. There are providers who enter the profession simply to be with their children, whether at home or in a center. This is why there is an average 50% turnover rate in centers annually and why the greatest attrition in home daycares happens within one year of care. New moms, with little to no training, thinking that they love children and will be great providers, often lack the skills necessary for classroom management and personal control in a very stressful environment. Those that move beyond that first year and a simple need to be with and care for their own children, stick with it because they really do love children and the experience of providing care. Usually they view themselves as glorified babysitters and have the martyrdom you described. They feel bad for taking time off, asking for decent pay, extend their hours upon request, and put themselves in a subservient role to the parents. Then there are the professionals who have excellent, clear policies and procedures, ask a decent wage, serve healthy meals, have amazing play spaces, expect vacation and other benefits, do continuous training beyond that required for licensing, and have CLIENTS. While children will always benefit from loving child care, children that experience professional care with a provider trained in child development, conscious discipline, curriculum development, assessment and observation, an understanding of the different disciplines and programs and what each has to offer, the value of loose parts, etc. i.e. a TEACHER, will usually have a greater step up in life. But yes, the higher end environment and training cost, so the cost is greater to the parents, and many do not see the value in it. As an industry, ECE has not reached out to educate society on the value to be derived from professional child care. We get the ridiculous comparison to college tuition [a class of 100+ to one teacher for 12 hours a week and the students pay for all their own supplies] and other such nonsense, demeaning even further the value. Every provider that down plays their contribution, erodes the professionalism ECE should demand.