16 Feb

Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 2 (Week 3)

By Jill Bella

Jill Bella ECE

This past summer I attended a conference session facilitated by Stacie Goffin and several others on the topic of this book. Ten minutes into the session, two women at my table got up and left. When it came time for the participants to discuss some provocative questions about professionalizing the field, it was revealed by their remaining colleague that the two women had left because they were upset when Stacie had made a comment suggesting early childhood education (ECE) was not a professional field of practice. I was baffled. Didn’t they realize that early childhood education does not meet the definition of a professional field of practice? Did they misinterpret Stacie’s message as demeaning their work instead of trying to change the way it is valued for the better? Were they threatened by what professionalizing the field might mean for them personally? While I will never know the exact reason Stacie’s comment caused them to leave, their reaction frightened me. This session was billed as a provocative discussion, and if, as practitioners in our field we are that quick to dismiss or avoid a discussion that challenges our beliefs and attitudes, then our work to advance early childhood education might be even more difficult than I had already imagined.

This is why Chapter 2 in Stacie’s book is so critical. Titled “Thinking Alone,” this chapter provides an important method for demystifying our views about professionalizing the field. It contains a series of questions designed for self-reflection to get to the core of our assumptions, assess our commitment to change, evaluate our open mindedness, and dissect our conversational style so we are not a passenger of our thoughts and previous behaviors but rather a driver, determining what our thoughts and actions will be. Honestly and openly addressing these questions will make us more likely to “stay at the table” when challenged and motivate us to move the conversation to a new space rather than halting it.

I’d like us to use this week in our book group as a place to first surface those often unspoken barriers that we don’t always want to admit, but that shape our actions. Your responses may provide valuable information for future conversations around the country by those invested in re-conceptualizing ECE. Second, I want to use the list generated to dig deeper. My intent for this week is to facilitate a continuing discussion with several parts; giving you time to reflect on your responses and the responses of your fellow book group members, and then taking the conversation further. As a result, you haven’t seen the last of me! This first question allows you the opportunity to be part of the conversation—this book group is a way to explore ideas and voice opinions that will stimulate the thoughts of others. In a sense, this is a step toward Chapter 4, “Supporting Successful Conversations with Intent” and a mark of advocacy.  As a practitioner in early childhood education, you have a perspective and an opinion that can help shape the future.

Take a moment to list what might be at stake personally and professionally if early childhood education is restructured as a field of practice. I’ll begin with a few ideas that could have huge implications:

–          If qualifications are increased, many practitioners might not meet newly required qualifications

–          If qualifications are increased, the field could lose those good practitioners with low formal qualifications

–          If practitioners are licensed or certified, the cost may add another burden to an already financially challenged group

What do you think might be at stake if we restructure ECE as a field of practice? I will check in and facilitate more book group discussion as the week continues.

Director, Quality Supports and Assistant Professor
(800) 443-5522, Ext. 5059

*New here? You can find all the book study details HERE. Happy reading!

This book study is sponsored by Redleaf Press


BeyondthePages ECE book Study

51 thoughts on “Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 2 (Week 3)

  1. Hello all

    Let me briefly introduce myself as this is my first official comment of the book study. My name is Betsy Carlin. For the 1st 25 years of my career I worked in program administration. I then received my Master’s degree in ECS and have launched an early childhood consulting business focusing on leadership development. My personal vision is affordable, accessible, high quality early childhood programs for all young children and families. My personal professional mission is to help build leadership capacity at all levels of the early childhood field through facilitation and professional development .

    I have been a follower and supporter of Stacie’s work and this movement for a long time and the concern that always comes back to me is …. among all the difficult decisions and necessary losses that will need to take place in order to become a professional field of practice, I worry we will loose the wisdom of some great educators who only have minimal formal education but whose experience and expertise is as great or better then others who have degrees.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Betsy. Losing the wisdom of those who have minimal formal education but a wealth of experience and expertise is a serious concern. Professionalizing the field is a systemic change that will have implications whatever the criteria become, and thoughtfully considering what is at stake will help shape our direction. Once our book group develops a list of what is at stake we will take a deeper look at your concern and the concerns of others.

  2. When psychologists were planning to have licenses, I think that was in the fifties, Carl Rogers, an already famous psychologist, was concerned that we might be licensing fools. I fear there was some truth to his concern. However, having standards for our license has helped the public have a way to check out the quality of a professional they are considering. From this, I think that we don’t need to license ECE professionals as much as we need an organization that sets some standards. That way and educated fool can be found out, and an uneducated person can be found acceptable.

    1. I agree with this. Over several years I have seen educated people treat children in questionable ways while uneducated individuals with years of experience do amazing things! All of the education in the world doesn’t make you an educator, it is the desire to make a difference in children’s lives, which is evident in current pay scales and change over.

      1. You sound passionate about this issue Mitzi! I bet most of us know someone who is a “natural” teacher, someone who is fabulous working with children and may not have had any formal training. If given the choice between a wonderful teacher whose every interaction includes building relationships, scaffolding learning, and encouraging critical thinking but has little or no formal education–or a mediocre teacher who doesn’t take time with each child, is unaware of each child’s developmental level, and rarely asks open-ended questions, but has a degree in early childhood the choice is pretty clear. What are your thoughts on how to let families know that the teacher who isn’t formally educated meets or exceeds the criteria/standards of a quality teacher? Should there be a common measure to assess the knowledge and skills of teaching staff regardless of educational qualifications or experience?

        1. I have used the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS) in my classrooms for 20 years. The 3rd Edition- the newest version- stresses teacher interactions and I have seen certified teachers score very low on this category and experienced, noncertified teachers score very high on this category. Teacher interaction is such an important component of an effective early childhood classroom and using a rating scale to evaluate how successfully a teacher interacts with students goes a long way to helping them set goals for professional development. Conversations and open-ended questions are a great measure!

    2. I appreciate your comment Jack. It opens the door for thinking about a variety of possibilities. If ECE were to forgo a license/credential/etc., do you feel people need to be held accountable to standards? If so, what ideas do you or others in this book group have for holding people accountable to those standards?

  3. Jill, as I get acquainted with the ECE issues, I am finding that NAEYC and the McCormick center, and probably others, have certification programs. I’m wondering if such programs could work out a national standard. Certified leaders would be in a position to influence hiring and training practices without having a licensing requirement. Stacie’s book has me wondering if there is some kind of turf-defense going on regarding certification. I have a presentation, “Discipline Without Punishment,” that deals with understanding the negative role of punishment of any kind, not just corporal punishment, and I think it is helping with confusion about the disciplining of children. Such confusion may be one of the problems of coming to a national agreement. Evidently due to conservative views in Christians, the United States lags behind the rest of the developed world regarding punishment.

    1. Interesting thought about having certification programs work out a national standard. Stacie’s call to action by presenting on this topic and writing about it has already sparked discussion among experts and leading organizations in the field. If certified leaders of early care and education programs were responsible for hiring and training staff to meet a standard, do you see some sort of accountability measure?

    2. Yes, national organizations like NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) https://www.naeyc.org/caep/standards
      and DEC (Division for Early Childhood) http://www.deccecpersonnelstandards.org/
      have professional standards that are research-based.

      Institutes of higher education usually use these standards to develop A.A.S., B.A., and masters programs for early childhood teachers. This is one way to keep standards up and professionals trained in similar ways. As for teacher certification, that vary widely from state to state. And yes, oftentimes there are “turf-wars” about certification, because some teaching positions require certification (eg. Public Pre-K, early childhood special education) and some do not (eg. child care, family child care) leading to two (or more) tiers of early childhood educators.

  4. I got this in an email today from “Exchange Everyday.” It has great statements for reflection:
    “Many of us in the early childhood profession have a temperament less inclined toward risk. In fact, most directors associate the idea of risk with liability and strive to keep everything safe, literally and figuratively. But if you are to be a leader and move your program forward toward a larger vision, you will need to cultivate yourself as a risk taker.”This is the observation of Margie Carter and Deb Curtis in The Visionary Director. In the book they ask if you are a risk taker and visionary. They ask which of these statements feel most like you?
    • I avoid taking risks and tend to put my head in the sand when it comes to big changes that are required.
    • When I feel something really needs changing, I’m willing to stick my neck out.
    • I’m always ready to challenge the status quo, to speak up or advocate for something that obviously needs changing.
    • My program is pretty close to how I want it to be.
    • I have a list of changes that need to be made if our program is going to meet our profession’s definitions of quality.
    • My vision for our program goes far beyond what is typically discussed in our professional literature. I have big dreams and am willing to work to achieve them.

    1. Thanks for sharing this information Robin. We can tweak the words a little bit and apply the statements to how we feel about risk-taking and envisioning related to professionalizing the field. So, I’ll just highlight the first one for all of us to think about– If you believe we should professionalize the field, are you willing to stick your neck out? And, if so, how far?

      1. Risk-taking in early childhood is a very interesting topic. I have always been an advocate for high-quality programs and have promoted accreditation and in-depth program evaluations. In one instance when I was a director for a church-based program I had to take a big risk for the sake of quality. The church came to a point where the pastor and the church board agreed that the program quality had a great deal of room for improvement. The program’s board, however, did not want to implement changes and given the structure of this particular church the only choice they had was to either continue as it was or to shut it down and eliminate its current board. I stuck my neck out and was willing to loose my job rather than continue to direct a program that was very sub-par in quality. The children deserved something so much better and I wouldn’t have put my own children in that program. I didn’t want to loose my job, but it was the right thing to do in that situation. Now I work for the Department of Education and I get to promote quality early childhood! 🙂

  5. As I have read and thought about the conversation here, I have reflected on my own experience. I believe I could be categorized as a natural teacher and really I just followed my instinct through much of my career. It was not until I went back to school and received my Master’s degree that I was truly able to articulate why I was doing what I was doing. As much as I consider the loss of great educators who do not have a formal education or credential I also believe becoming a professional field of practice we must not only have a specialized knowledge base but we must be able to articulate it. Without a formal education plan CDA, AA, BA, MS is it possible for ECE professionals to be able to do this? I understand there are good and bad lawyers, nurses, physicians, etc. but when you make an appointment you know they all have prepared for their work and to the service they provide. From there it is personal choice whether they remain in your service based on individual experience and expectations.

    1. I love that you reflected on your own story and shared it with the group. You make a good point–there is always more to learn and room to grow. Formal education can provide frameworks, connect practice with theory, categorize strategies, help us become more self-aware, etc. One might also argue a good mentor could also do those things. So what makes sense for the ECE field when it comes to creating, as you described, practitioners who are somewhat equally prepared for their work and service– so those seeking out a practitioner know they meet a standard of quality?

  6. I agree with Betsy. There came a time in my career when I faced loosing my position due to a lack of a four year degree. I made up my mind that no one was ever going to tell me I couldn’t do the job I loved because I wasn’t qualified to do what I was already doing- so I went back to school. No regrets. I think it is fair to suggest that those who commit their time, experience and financial resources to education, should be given salaries that reflect that time and effort. The frustration for me is working within a system that doesn’t give equal pay for equal work. Within our school district, we work alongside ECSE teachers who are paid substantially more, given more credibility and better working contracts than those who are ECFE. Many of us have MA degrees and make thousands less than our co-workers.

    1. I agree, also! I had a Masters in Educational Psychology and over ten years of experience in preschool and risked not having a job after a move because I did not have my early childhood teacher certification. Making the decision to go back and complete this process was the best decision! I have a level of credibility now that I never had before! My salary does not reflect my level of education now with two masters degrees, but I am working in my field of passion and that is priceless!

      1. As I read both your comments Robin and Dianna’s I thought of a quote from a director who participated in a research study I did on advocacy for early childhood workforce issues, the director said, “I have worked in child care for 38 years, I am divorced and I have no retirement benefits. I manage a highly respected child care program on the campus of a major university that offers no money toward staff training. I love the work that I do and am respected in my field, but I expect to live in poverty when I retire.” For me, this quote is a call to action.

        1. Unfortunately this issue is more common than it should be. I agree that something needs to be done! We have such an important job investing our own energy and resources into our professions and having to accept that that is just part of the job. I read a post over the weekend that asked- If you are a teacher should you expect to be a martyr? Quite a provocative question to find circulating on Twitter!

  7. Interestingly enough today I was reminded of a story that absolutely supports the need to professionalized. The largest early childhood organization in my community decided after careful consideration the early childhood teachers in the birth to pre-k full day program should be treated as professionals (like those teachers in K-12 systems) and they went to a salary model. More then a year after making this change, a government department (whose name escapes me currently) started an investigation, determined the teachers were not actually professional teachers, and fined the organization. It was truly a slap in the face for the teachers and the organization that is working very hard on creating an environment of professionalism .

    1. My son’s finance works for a prestigious early childhood center with many doctor’s and lawyer’s children. She has a degree in early childhood education and a teaching certificate and loves her job working with toddlers. However, I learned yesterday that she only has 3 days of sick leave per year. The director is afraid the teachers will misuse their leave time and she doesn’t want to pay for subs. This shows such a lack of professionalism.
      Also- my first year as a director I moved all the teachers from hourly to a salary model and there was concern that this would not be allowed even though the teachers were all certified. I moved forward with it anyway and fortunately in our state I never had any issues while I was there. They signed carefully written contracts each year and participated in formal and informal documented observations.

      1. Robin,
        A recent study on the Program Administration Scale indicated that approximately 50% of early care and education programs offer 6 or less sick/personal days per year to their staff. What do you and other book group members think we need to consider when it comes to improving benefits for the early childhood workforce? What types of benefits should be standard?

    2. That is horrible, Betsy. I think if we have a group of teachers that are qualified, or moving toward being qualified, that we should as leaders extend them every professional benefit that other teachers in other settings get (salary vs. hourly, medical/dental). If a program doesn’t offer these benefits, the recruitment of high-quality of teachers is probably lacking – because they will make an educated choice to work somewhere else.

      I think that with all policies, if an new policy is coming down the pike like “all ECE teachers must have a BA” or “all ECE teachers should have certification” then there would have to be a phase-in period of a couple of years where teachers have the opportunity to get those credentials or college classes, if they don’t already have them. This would require working closely with colleges and universities to know local options for working teachers, and working closely with staff on “study plans” to make sure they know required timelines and what happens if they don’t meet the qualifications. In the end some teachers who don’t get certified or get a college degree, might move to other positions (assistant teacher, etc.) but this doesn’t mean they are “left out” of the field. This means there will be a career ladder that has clear delineations to move from one position to another, and if they choose, they can do this. However this must come in tandem with salary and benefits, especially for Head Teacher positions.

      1. Thanks for your ideas Natalie! I especially like that you considered the need to align a new system with available resources such as colleges or universities. If we change the system we need to consider all of the components and resources that must work together for the new system to be successful. This means we need to bring all the “players” to the table making decisions.

  8. What are the barriers that keep us from advocating for professionalism in our field of ECE? For some of us it is our own education or experience. One can choose to, will to, decide to or want to increase their own education. Being forced to creates resistance. This decision of the will can increase the passion for and the ability to be an advocate. Commitment, training and education will increase professionalism and also increase the ability to be a spokesperson or advocate for young children. An opportunity can be provided for infants and preschoolers to be educated in an environment where their teachers and caregivers are experienced, trained and intentional in teaching as well as being fully aware of their needs .

    1. Thanks for bringing up the idea that creating a license/credential/etc. might create a feeling of being “forced” to comply, thus leading to resistance. How do others in the book group feel about this?

  9. In any profession, that fact that you have credentials of some sort lead to more credibility. I am sure that there are thousands of “natural” teachers in our classrooms every day that serve as paraprofessionals. The difference between the teacher and the para may be education, licensing and the desire to be a professional. I don’t think we loose those that have a passion for children, they choose to serve in another capacity, but the option always exists for them to take on the challenge of becoming a licensed teacher.
    In our school district, first year teachers are actually given ten EXTRA days of sick time because they have not built the immunity to all the germs they will encounter! If this is true for elementary-secondary, imagine Birth thru Pre-K! We are NOT given the extra days, or event he same number of sick days in a year because we are grant funded and not funded by the general fund that the district is.

  10. Wow Dianna! Directors often tell me that their employees are not eligible for sick/personal days until after they have worked in the program for a full year, or until after their probationary period. I always make a point to say that those are the times they need the days the most because they are building up their immunity. You’re the first person who has shared a real life example of a program (although it is a school district example) that takes that into consideration. Does anyone know of an early care and education program that does this?

  11. There is often an issue of teacher burnout and teacher turnover, especially in the first two years of teaching. I would think they would need at least two weeks of personal days to be able to refresh and replenish their energy and an additional 6-10 sick days if they teach in a year round setting. Anything less seems almost inhuman to me and is less likely to attract highly qualified, energetic staff.

  12. Early childhood education is certainly a difficult task, but I think that burn out, as has been implied regarding money and time, has a lot to do with administration. Administrators just can’t be adequately effective in their support if they have anything like a corporate attitude. They need to be comfortable in their credentials, and get in there with a genuine relationship of caring and support.

  13. Jack,
    I totally agree about administrative attitude having an impact on teacher turnover. Lack of support caused me to leave a position I really enjoyed. Even though I was an experienced teacher it was hard not to ever have support from the principal. She only visited my classroom once for a formal observation and gave me no feedback at all. I appreciated that she seemed to trust what I was doing, but just once that year I would have liked her to tell me that in person- or even in writing.

    1. Jack and Robin, you both mention the importance of administrative support and how lack of supervisor support leads to turnover, which is supported by research. When I am training a group of directors I will ask them to raise their hand if they have received any training on how to supervise staff. Around 25% of directors in the room usually raise their hand. I think this is so telling. We expect administrators to be able to supervise well, yet most of them don’t have strategies for doing so.

  14. I have had coworkers in past fake sick days for mental health days because requested time off was frequently denied. I once was told when calling in one day after spending overnight in ER with my diabetic toddler that I had to decide which was more important to me. Him or my job! I was livid and slapped IFMLA signed and ready to go on her desk the next day. My son is my priority. why do good teachers leave? because the children are not the bottom line in many centers, the budget is.

    1. Mitzi you raise such an important issue. When the quality of work life for staff is not addressed there are negative consequences. Early care and education programs need to consider how organizational climate impacts quality of work life. And, that a negative organizational climate may lead to dissatisfaction and turnover.

  15. I agree with the comments above re: supervisor support, leave time time, etc. I fully support a licensing process that ensures quality practices with consistency. One of my concerns with the education system in general, including ECE, is that the day-to-day model is outdated and leads to teacher burnout because so many inappropriate expectations have been put on the education system. When the current form of public education was established, most families had one parent at home so dismissal at 2:30, summers, and teacher workdays were less of an issue. Now that most families have two working parents we’re expected to serve for the entire day and given costs staffing that span of time is impossible without burnout or lack of continuity in care. Caring for children is also one of those things that doesn’t allow you to step out of the office for an hour to run an errand… we just can’t. So we need to find some balance in meeting the needs of families and children while also understanding teachers are people too.

    1. the need for childcare is something most families have. I had used childcare for a while before realizing it wasn’t what was best for us, I once walked in on sleeping provider. While I understand teachers are people too I believe that while I am in charge of other peoples children they deserve and get 100%. If I am not able to give that to the children I care for I stay home or leave early.

  16. Any parent or childcare provider distracted by their own needs is going to be seriously limited in their ability to provide what children need. Especially with what our nation is willing to pay for early childhood education, this limitation is more than common, almost universal. While we wait for a miracle, we need to care for ourselves by believing that we are doing the best we can now, and that we can improve.

  17. I agree with many of the comments above that professionalizing ECE will lead to difficult decisions and some loss, but I also agree that we can minimize losing great teachers who may not have formal education by maybe having an organization or test or something along those lines that can both set some standards and evaluate existing and incoming teachers. I also agree completely with Stacie’s point that sometimes are our own obstacles. I have too often seen several teachers refuse to try any other kind of teaching method or style because they believe that because they’ve been in the field for 15,20,25 etc years that their way is fine and needs no adjusting. Even though I don’t have a ton of experience yet, I’ve had to work hard to overcome some of my personal ideas and methods that I clung to for awhile because I was raised that way and it worked for me! But every child is different and ultimately we should all want what is best for them.

  18. Diana, of course the reply to teachers who don’t want to change is that the information has changed. Even the last five years have seen dramatic changes. Such teachers are actually likely to just be afraid of all that there is to learn. To keep them involved we have to make learning a safe thing to do where they aren’t graded or criticized, just challenged to make progress with their ideas.

  19. I have read all the comments regarding risk, loss, standards, and equity of income. I feel like restructuring the field will be a win~win. There is a chance of losing talented, caring, loving individuals, but having teachers without high standards for education, certification and current knowledge of DAP practices, we can’t expect to demand wages, benefits and facilities reflecting our professionalism.

    People have commented on how teachers are not given the credit for the hard work we do by parents, professionals and administrators.

    If we professionalize the industry and show our clients and government officials the stuff we’re made of, we can then expect compensation commensurate with our gifts and abilities.

    This is coming from a fifteen year experienced toddler teacher, in a corporate setting who has ~not~ finished college, and does not have a masters degree or associate certification. Who does not make enough money to survive alone, but is well paid by industry standards. I take all the continuing education credits I can, but realize that more formal education is needed to make me a better teacher and deserving of professional compensation.

    What do we risk? We risk it all…to make it better. Better for us, for the kids we teach, their families and better for the young people choosing this field in the future.

  20. There could be a lot at stake if we restructure ECE. Most of these issues boil down to money. Education isn’t cheap and there would need to be programs available to EC educators to be able to meet the new standards. Many states are already attempting to do this by implementing a program that teaches early childhood, some even offer grants to those willing to put forth the extra effort. There are also those educators who value time as much as money and for whatever the reason may be aren’t able to devote the time needed to meet the new standards. I feel that if these standards become mandatory we might loose the most valuable of all, the wiser older educators. The one who have been in ECE the longest and feel they are too old for schooling, feel they aren’t tech savvy enough to do it or just don’t have the energy to do it. From the ones I have met, many are talking about taking early retirement verses spending the time and energy to become certified or star rated.

  21. Of course we will need money if we are going to keep well-educated ECE professionals in their jobs. I doubt that money will come as it needs to be from government, and our male-dominated conservative government doesn’t see the need for better education in any form. For me this means that we must continue to improve what we are doing while we work for better professional status and outcomes. If well educated leaders, and we are gaining in that department, train the less-educated workers, we can get there. One problem is what is happening in developmental science. Lisa Barrett, “How Emotions Are Learned,” states, “Many scientists are now on a path forged by the data, rather than ideology to understand emotion and ourselves.” ECE education has been focused more on theory–ideology–than data, and research data has grown exponentially in the last seven years. We can become professionals and gain the money with developmental success, if our leaders keep up with the new information.

  22. As someone who has worked in centers/preschools for 16 years, I think its very much worth it to professionalize ECE. I think it would benefit teachers and students in so many ways. Now that I am a licensed family child care provider, I can see people being fearful of professionalizing the field because of additional rules, regulations, and training requirements that might come with it. Its a necessary change that in the end will prove worth the extra work.

  23. The early stages of restructuring early education will likely have its share of growing pains but will likely be a “win” for the field in terms of professionalization in the long run. Not having some level of standards, be it a certificate, degree or something else entirely, will make it difficult for those outside the field to really grasp the professional goals of early education. While some practitioners may be lost; committing to any profession does require a level of time and financial “buy in” (like committing to education with in the field). To (hopefully) minimize that teachers could be “tested” and either grandfathered in or offered a time-line to enhance their knowledge in the field. In an ideal situation funds would be made available to centers or practitioners themselves to make it easier to afford.
    If we want to be seen as professionals we need to be professional in our interactions, that means we use the “industry lingo” when talking with families and colleagues. Having formal knowledge within your field of practice makes this possible.
    That being said, if there are to be requirements to education or certification there need to be benefits and salary available to make it worthwhile (for more than just the love of the field!).

  24. I can say beyond my home daycare I have not taken more action into professionalizing the field of Early Childhood Education. I recently moved houses and counties so with that alone I am working on bettering my program and making it a more accreditable so to speak. Learning, professionally and organizationally.

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