It’s time. It’s time that the early childhood field got the recognition it deserves. While the pandemic was awful in many ways, it did contain some silver linings in the crazy mess of the last 17 months (WOW – has it really been that long?!). One of them being awareness by the general public of the critical role the early care and education field plays in our economy, infrastructure and health of our nation and communities. I know, I know, it seems that I sometimes go around in circles with the pandemic’s usefulness and our field – but its true. I would love to say this is the last reference to the 2020 pandemic and our world, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.
However, I digress… IT IS TIME! But, we can’t do it without you! Yes, you dear early care and education professionals. And that is exactly what you are – PROFESSIONALS. Yep, also a topic I bring out often and stand on my soapbox and share my thoughts on – and am going to continue. Right now as a matter of fact ?
First, let’s take a look at what a “professional” is exactly. Webster’s ( https://www.merriam-webster.com/) defines professional as “a calling requiring specialized knowledge; a principal calling, vocation, or employment” and a professional as “(noun) one that engages in a pursuit or activity professionally.” Hmmm, well then. I would say that many of you look at your work with young children and families as a “calling.” Many of you are paid for the services you provide to children and families, qualifying you for the term “employment.” Yep, pretty sure that you are in a profession and are considered professionals, according to Webster at a minimum.
The topic of “profession” and what constitutes a profession have been the study of several groups. One group of scholars has even defined criteria to determine if an occupation is a profession (Bassett 2005; Cooper 2003; Feeney 2012; Rhode et al. 2016). There are several criteria that go into differentiating a profession from an occupation –here are just a few that pertain to our specific profession:
- A commitment to serving a significant social value – you are touching the future of our nation and community – for sure there is a social value to the work you do.
- A specialized body of knowledge and expertise based on theory – check, we adhere to the principles of developmentally appropriate practice – individually, age, and culturally appropriate – in our work with young children.
- Training – we have certification opportunities, degree opportunities, continuing education requirements, and LOTS of on-the-job training throughout our careers.
- Standards of practices – recommended procedures for dealing with situations that are regularly encountered in the workplace – taking part in on-going education, conferences to hone our knowledge (not to mention a knowledge base that defines what we should know, do, and understand to be confident, intentional, and effective care and education professionals), as well regular reflection and self-assessment to develop our dispositions.
- Self-governance and autonomy – there are specific associations and organizations that govern the work we do and put forth standards of best practice and guidance on ensuring that children are provided a solid foundation for life. Again, check that one off the list.
- A Code of Ethical Conduct – Yes! We have this too! Our Code spells out our moral obligation to society and guides early care and education professional’s behavior.
So, now that we have that out of the way – the fact that the early care and education field is a profession and those that work in direct care, and those that support our direct care providers, are professionals. And, we have the pandemic’s eye-opening, gut wrenching, and sudden pulling back of the curtain exposure of the vital role we play in the survival of the world -IT’S TIME.
Time to hold your head up high and own the work that you do.
Time to shout to the world – I am a professional early care and education provider.
Time to own your rightful place as a small business owner – regardless of the size of your facility, in fact more so if you are a family or group provider.
Time to claim your worth and importance as a piece of the economic survival of our nation, state and community.
Time to put your game face on and ask for the national and local support you deserve as a key player in infrastructure.
Time to invite our representatives into your world and share with them your day, your work, and the importance of the relationships and experiences you provide each moment of that day.
Time to advocate, in tiny or giant ways, for yourself, your co-professionals, children, families and our world.
Time to put the early care and education field in its rightful place, front, and center, as key to a healthy and sustainable world – now and far into the future.
What will you do with your “TIME?”