This job is real, raw and meaningful

In light of Early Childhood Educators’ Day on Wednesday 4 September, we asked ANNE STONEHOUSE to write about the role of educators in the lives and formation of children. Anne talked to a circle of educators who shared rewarding parts of their daily experiences. Their commitment and dedication is obvious, here they are in their own words.

You’re wonderful. I wouldn’t have the patience to do what you do!

Aren’t you lucky to have a job where you get paid to play with children all day!

Education? I just want my child to make friends and be happy in child care. She’ll go to school later for education.

 If children learn best through play, then why do you need qualifications to work in child care?

Parliament erupted today with shouting, insults and unacceptable behavior. It was like a preschool.

The comments above demonstrate common misunderstandings regarding the work of early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators. I asked four committed, wise and skilled educators to identify the most rewarding and fulfilling parts of their jobs, and to comment on appreciation of their work. Here is what they had to say:

Every day I am influenced and inspired by the logical irrationality and creative genius that comes with having 3 three-year-olds.

I love seeing the improvement in their holistic wellbeing through setting goals and supporting them in every way to reach their full potential.

I rock up to work happy that I know I will see children’s development and learning. Children are growing and flourishing under my care. I always think about their future and what I can do to help children learn in the first five years. That learning can affect them for their entire life. I make sure I am there for them.

The joy of working in a learning culture stood out for one educator:

It’s so rewarding to critically reflect on what we do to ensure best practice. I value deep conversations where we ‘unpack’ practices so that we can do our best with each child. There’s satisfaction in trying hard to understand children’s behaviour, learning styles and needs. My favourite way to begin a conversation is ‘What might the behaviour be communicating?’ We can then set goals and anticipate seeing the results of our hard work

These educators long for greater understanding and appreciation of their work in the broader community. As one educator pointed out, families won’t automatically understand and value their efforts: ‘We have worked really hard to ensure that families understand what we do on a daily basis, and they appreciate us more because of that. It’s also important to recognise people’s different ways of showing appreciation’.

Expressions of support, appreciation and gratitude among colleagues is invaluable:

I call them magic words—‘thank you’. I always try to remind myself to thank people for their deep commitment and work they do.

 I am in a supportive team, so the appreciation across the service of one another is “above and beyond”. We’re forever pointing out each other’s strengths and giving positive feedback.

I appreciate the comments my co-workers make daily, comments like ‘I like the way you handled that’. It’s important to constantly remind each other of the positives, that we ARE doing a great job.

Working with young children is hard, ‘mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually stimulating but also draining’. An educator summed it up well: ‘This job is real, raw, and meaningful’.

It will be a grand day when, at all levels—ECEC settings, communities, the media and government—there is a greater understanding and recognition of the complexity and importance of the work that people who educate and care for young children do.

There are many ways to advocate for educators; however, the most powerful advocacy must come from educators who speak powerfully, persuasively—and yes dispassionately —about their work and who are cheerleaders for each other’s work.

Educators who do their jobs well deserve the highest praise and our gratitude.

My thanks go to Hanan Shamoun, Megan Smith, Anneke van de Vusse and Teagan Ziemer, educators at Gowrie Victoria-Broadmeadows Valley, for their contribution to this article. More importantly, I extend my gratitude and admiration to them and other educators like them for the difference they make to the lives of young children and their families.

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Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

2 thoughts on “This job is real, raw and meaningful”

    Sue-Ellen Jackson says:

    Last night at our Kindergarten we hosted a triple P parenting program on resilience. Even though only 5 parents made the effort it was so beneficial for them all and they thanked us the educators for giving up our time. As the teacher I arrived at 8.20am and signed off at 9pm with a trip into town 8km away for a quick coffee. Why did we do this because we love what we do and are committed to offering a quality service for the community.

    Sarah says:

    Well said! I totally agree with this article. I used to be an early childhood educator and while working in childcare I got my Bachelor degree. Its viewed as ‘playing’with kids but we know its more than that. We are making a difference and I think the next generation is starting to see the importance of early childhood education and early years brain development.

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