23 Feb

Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 2 (Week 4)

By Gayle Stuber

Gayle StuberStart with yourself—and consider what you want for the system in which you work.

What would you keep? What would you change in this system?

Field of Practice: the purpose of the field in question revolves around performance of a specialized and shared competence.  A ‘field’ is an invisible world filled with mediums of connections: an invisible structure that connects.

I have read and re-read both Chapter 1 and 2 to get started on this discussion—or, to use the author’s words, dialogue.  Chapter 2 is truly a way to begin the reflection needed—in a collective manner!—first individually and then, thanks to technology, collectively, as one moves through Chapter 3.  Chapter 2 provides a method of self-reflection through answering questions that have been designed to open our minds and loosen our grip on personal positions.

With the purpose of starting an ‘intentional conversation’, I have selected Question #1:  What is my personal stake in restructuring ECE as a field of practice?  to be the beginning of my part of the conversation.

I began to ‘mull over’ my own assumptions and positions by beginning with my identity within the field.  I am newly retired from a State Department of Education.  I have spent most of my professional life in the world of education – as a teacher, a professor, and a state consultant.  Even though I am retired, I continue to have a strong connection to ECE, which is one of my passions in life.  At the state level, it is easy to see how the field is often ‘shanghaied’ by those outside the ECE world through providing money or political support for ideas and practices that can sound good, but may not be what is often described by ECE as ‘good for children and families’ in the long term.

My work focus plus other personal experiences (I am the daughter of a professor as well) has prompted my strong belief that education has a place at the ECE table.  Therefore, at least part of my personal stake in restructuring ECE as a field of practice, is to determine if my belief that ECE should require specialized competences or professional learning by requiring an education degree—in specific, a teaching license in early childhood—is an appropriate assumption.  This has been a core belief and practice in my work for decades—is this an assumption that I should or must release? I hope not (to be honest!!!)—but I know there is a large group of fellow ECE-ers who believe that high quality professional ECE teaching/child care does not require a degree.

SO: my answer to Question 1 (at this point in time—it will change as this blog and the dialogue continues) is that I would like (really need!) our field of practice to include an assurance or requirement for members to have a shared and specialized competence that is defined by a formal license or degree.  What do you think? And how should we define such a formal license?

This conversation led me to a Question from “Commitment to Personal Change” #7: What would be placed at risk if I let go of my ‘certainties’? What am I afraid of losing? How might I test my assumption(s) in this regard?

My certainty is that a teaching license in early childhood education (I can also live with some sort of formal certificate) is an essential component of an ECE field of practice.  I believe that the requirement of a field of practice–a specialized and shared competence—is met by the need for a teaching license and would result in that ‘highly skilled workforce’.

But what does ‘highly skilled’ mean? And what is the result I want for the work that I believe needs to be done by ECE? (see—another question has popped up!)  It is all too easy to fall into the ‘promote success’ and ‘enhance learning’ language that is used to define the ultimate goal of early childhood education.  I think one of my fears (afraid of losing—risks!) is that if there is no formal requirement for ECE implementers/teachers, whatever we call ourselves, then the field will not ever been seen as anything but a bunch of babysitters who are replaceable and who really do not provide any value to society as a whole and to families and children in specific.

What do you think?  Is letting go of professional requirements a good option for the field? Or is it taking the easy way out by allowing anyone and everyone to be an ECE practitioner?  (I guess my question shows my assumption/bias, doesn’t it?)  Perhaps a better way is to ask:  Is letting go of my assumption that a teaching license should be required for an ECE practitioner going to improve the results of our field of practice?

Under Openness to Changing ECE as a Field of Practice, I chose Question #13:  What are my aspirations for ECE as a field of practice?  What is it I really want to create?  The other questions (in particular #14—the ‘butterflies’ question) were very good and likely more to the point based upon the questions I have chosen to date, but I needed to go back to what I see as the foundation for my assumptions:  What do I REALLY want from ECE?

This should be such an easy question—but it really isn’t!  I should know that because I stopped typing and decided to wash dishes—which tells me, and you, something about the difficulty of answering it!

My usual response is that I want early childhood educators to be respected by community members, political leaders, and our colleagues—but I don’t think that is enough.  I need to get more specific.  For example—here are some beginning concepts that I think could be considered important (perhaps essential? That will need more reflection–)

  • All members have the same set of assumptions that define their individual and joint ECE identity
  • Coherence across all systems
  • A systemic focus that includes all who meet the assumptions
  • Truly collaborative within the field of practice
  • Connections—within and across the internal ECE systems, but also with other systems or fields of practice
  • An accepted knowledge base for teachers/providers—that is known outside of the field and helps us truly be seen as a ‘field of practice’

These are the beginnings of my thoughts. I need to work on them, and I hope that you will add, change, or subtract from this list!

Finally, from the section on Conversational Skills, I selected Question #20:  How do I think others see me? How might this influence my willingness to expose my thinking during conversations?

I have always identified myself as an ‘educator’ and as a professional.  I think that others see me as an educator who has a passion for early childhood education.  I hope that others see me as someone who has integrity and cares for the field and promotes ethical practice.  That said—practices are individually identified and could be somewhat subjective so having integrity is defined by my assumptions and beliefs and therefore my assumptions influence how I think others see me!

Overall, I think I need to review this book, Professionalizing Early Childhood Education as a Field of Practice:  A Guide to the Next Era, again. Every sentence really has something to consider, contemplate, and add into the reflection that we all need to do in order to come together for the good of our field resulting in the good of the children and families we serve. What are the questions that you want to answer?  Selecting the questions and working on answering them will help us, individually and collectively, move the field toward a formal Field of Practice and result, I believe, in restructuring the current system into one that better serves children, families, and society as a whole.

What I found, as I began to consider the questions in Chapter 2, is that my answers generated more questions—and more in-depth reflections!  I hope that my thoughts are useful to ‘kick off’ your own reflections! I look forward to our dialogue below.


Gayle M. Stuber, Ph.D.
Independent Early Childhood Specialists
1057 Wellington Road
Lawrence, KS 66049

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BeyondthePages ECE book Study

34 thoughts on “Beyond The Pages ECE Book Study: Chapter 2 (Week 4)

  1. Gayle, nice opening. You have me thinking that personal security is a core issue for all of these questions. It takes personal security to doubt our thinking. We easily doubt the thinking of others when we disagree with them, but doubting our own thinking is better at leading to personal change. For these big issues that Stacie faces us with, we will need the ability to respect each other if we are to reach consensus–rather than a vote–and that will require personal security. Most of us have a performer attitude, in contrast to a learner attitude, and that easily leads to defensiveness and other limitations from our personal insecurity. It is such a Catch 22 that our limitations from our own social-emotional training hinders our ability to perform excellent social-emotional training of children.

    1. HI, Jack!
      I tried to respond earlier, but I am a bit technology challenged! I really like your focus on personal security–it goes to the heart of change, I think. And–it is a difficult part to change! Thanks for a great clarification!

  2. Gayle, I really enjoyed reading your opening comments. I have been a teacher/director for over 20 years and I now work for our Department of Education in Early Learning. I find your comments about the view of the Department requirements interesting. We fund a preschool grant with strict requirements for being developmentally appropriate- our programs are not even allowed to use worksheets. Where we have problems is when the teachers and/or administrators place inappropriate expectations or use inappropriate practices on the children and justify it as kindergarten readiness. I would like to see early childhood practices become more consistent with child development and for all early childhood teachers to learn to follow children’s interests and effectively imbed learning in their classrooms through stimulating conversations, interactions and hands-on experiences. Your choice of words, such as coherence, says it all. We had one program return our grant money because they decided their practice was not consistent with our requirements and they wanted to do things their way. They were mostly using drill and worksheets and did not know how to properly value play. So sad for the children in that program!

  3. I am in love with all of these posts so far. I completely agree with Jack that we all need more of a learning stance, and to me, the issue is that being a learner is not as valued by employers as it should be… it can actually be quite scary for a teacher to admit they don’t know everything already or that they need help.

    And Robin, what you note has been at the heart of many of my recent conversations. I have a daughter in Kindergarten who has an amazing teacher. As I watch her thrive in so many ways, I also see her struggle with the content that I know she’s just not ready for (she’s a young Kinder too). It worries me to see her moving towards 1st grade, where the stakes are even higher (in NC at least). She loves learning right now, and I’m afraid that will slip away. So this leads me to my personal response…

    I think we need to establish the ECE profession as birth-age 8… meaning the issues and the advocacy are not just related to children under 5, or about the appropriateness or not of kindergarten, but that we value and influence practice up to 3rd grade. So our children who do not have to transition from programs that respect their developmental continuum to schools that are not respect the developmental needs of children due to conflicting expectations… we need to be sure that ECE includes up to 3rd grade instead of fighting the “K readiness” battle. So that’s my assumption… for now :).

    1. I so agree, Dawn! And I wonder if we should think beyond third grade!? I have been looking at the ’employability’ skills or soft skills or career skills (different titles) and see many or perhaps all of them are aligned with and even the same as school readiness or school success skills. For example, don’t we want kindergartners (and all older grades) to problem solve, to make intentional decisions, to work well together? We also want adults to have those skills. So maybe we need to make connects beyond third grade–but starting with a focus beyond birth to five and aligning with K-3rd is excellent!

      1. I think that teachers should use best practices all the way through school to meet each child’s level of abilities and interests. Last year I taught a 4th grade class and I set it up using early childhood classroom environment techniques. We had a carpet time for class meetings, jobs, a writing/research center, tons of math manipulatives and games. We also did a lot of interactive, hands-on group projects. It was so much fun! Even though they were 4th grade they looked forward to sharing time on the carpet and to the collaborative projects.

    2. Yes!! You have made some wonderful points, Dawn. We do need to look at Kindergarten and beyond–perhaps on to secondary learning. And if we, as teachers, can support and promote our students’s learning using developmentally appropriate practices at all ages, we will be making a difference with long term impact! As you (and Jack!) noted, we also need to engage in our own ongoing learning–now THAT would move the field forward!

      I also like your focus on respecting the learners–including ourselves as we endeavor to reflect, think, and answer the hard questions. I am committed to continuing to do this work–and appreciate hearing (reading!) your thoughts and considerations. We learn from each other!! Thank you!!

  4. 5. What values or thinking about ECE as a field of practice feel “untouchable”?
    For me this would be the use and adherence to DAP (developmentally appropriate practices). However without a well-defined practice and evidence-base to go along with it… I feel like it is more of a murky area than most.

    Things that make me feel a bit conflicted in early childhood teacher education:
    My one year of Montessori training (plus year-long internship) made me feel more confident and competent as a teacher than the four years of my undergraduate program in elementary education! So I feel conflicted because I want early childhood teachers to get their BA and rise to that level, but I know that sometimes undergraduate programs are not great places to prepare teachers. (I’m trying to change that in my small way as a teacher educator, though!) But I do know that some of the techniques used in my Montessori training program could easily be transferred (and this is happening in some colleges and universities) to an undergraduate program (eg. lots of hands-on learning, discussion, connections to children in real classrooms, heavy on the supervision, lots of internship time, etc.).

    1. Hi, Natalie–I agree with you that the education of early childhood teachers is a critical piece of the early childhood education landscape. Montessori provided some essential concepts to our modern early childhood world–so yes, techniques from her training are certainly important. Perhaps we need to consider not only our historical supports (Montessori, Erickson, Vygotsky, Piaget–to name a few) but also our new knowledge from the brain research and evidence-based research. I do think that much of the historical concepts and learning are supported (at least in general) by current research, but I have found myself wondering how we can keep and hold and use our beliefs and training in current situations in classrooms, communities, and the political issues that many of us have to handle. Ahhh–it is complex, but I so agree with you that we cannot lose our roots as we move ahead. But we must not stop questioning and answering those questions with self – reflection and — eventually (That would be Chapters 3 and 4 and beyond!) communal reflection as a field! And that really sounds professorial! But it is heartfelt! Thanks for your hard work–and your suggestions and thoughts about connections with Montessori, SO good to remember!

  5. Don’t we just love “murky areas.” Wouldn’t all be well if we had the truth about “developmentally appropriate practices?” As someone who has studied developmental psychology since the sixties, I’ve seen many “appropriate practices” turned on their heads. I am now especially working on upsetting common views of punishment of children, not just corporal punishment. Expert opinion has been wrong, ineffective, and damaging to children’s worthwhileness. It is always judgmental: assuming that children really knew better when they act inappropriately. In the early seventies, I received a note from my oldest son’s first grade teacher that he might fail: that he was having difficulty drawing between the lines. When I confronted this teacher about this expectation being judgmental, developmentally incorrect, she was in tears, said she would pass him, agreed with me, but complained about her pressure from above. I am a psychological scientist, but that means I am a learner. I think critically–doubt myself and everything. That does not mean we don’t use developmental science for appropriate practice, it just means we keep thinking, accept our mistakes as learning, and keep caring for children.

  6. ‘Murky areas’ is the perfect description! And perhaps what we need to find is a more fluid descriptor for DAP. I wonder if one issue is that core DAP beliefs are not as changeable as DAP strategies used to implement those beliefs. And I want to applaud you for talking to your child’s teacher. I know teachers are under tremendous pressure–and one of my hopes for this and the other conversations about Stacie’s book is that the field can be a support for teachers and others who are under such pressure. We need to answer those hard questions which will, I hope and believe, coalesce us around a string ECE core. Lots to think about–thank you for your thoughts! They are moving us on!

  7. Hi Gayle,
    I agree with you when you say the ECE field must have at least at a minimum a certificate that assures people working with young children have some education. There must be a foundational understanding of how young children learn which then leads to the what young children learn. As a former early childhood center Director I was and remain a strong supporter of entry level staff completing the CDA if not ready to begin degree requirements. As a adult educator once I have the opportunity to enlighten and expose people interested in how children learn, to the foundation or basics of early childhood education , the transformation of how you should interact with young children takes place. I say all this to say that we have to require some certification for working with young children if we want to professionalize our field.

    1. Hi, Sherilynn,

      I Agree–and think that professionalizing our field is critical–and perhaps begins with professionalizing ourselves?? Such as getting a CDA and beyond–and understanding how important the knowledge base is when interacting with young children (and families, too!). Thank you for some great thoughts!

  8. JANE SAYS: FEBRUARY 27, 2016 AT 7:00 PM
    I appreciated Gayle’s encouragement to us in our own self reflection about ECE. I too attended college yet, I was the first in my family to do so. I decided having an Early Childhood degree and a license was important to me. Now as a Grandmother I see the challenges of those my age or older who did not earn a degree. They wonder what their future in ECE should be. I am grateful for those who encouraged and supported me to get a degree. I too feel those who can should pursue continuing education to the extent they are able. I believe in continuing education as a way to grow and challenge myself. Frankly, in our changing culture I feel passionately that children need us to be aware of their needs, to affirm, encourage, and educate them in an environment where they can excel in their physical, social, , and educational endeavors.

    1. HI, Jane,
      As a grandmother myself (!and isn’t it fun!), I can agree that it might be difficult to get ahead in a career without a degree. And I agree that continuing our education is so important. Having just retired–and being a grandmother, too!–I know that I still find it exciting and energizing to learn new ‘things’–especially about early childhood. New information helps us all support children and families and teachers better and more effectively. You have made a a success of yourself–and clearly are making a difference for children and families.

  9. Early Head Start, especially, and Head Start have upped the requirements for early childhood college education for staffs at their centers. The agency I consulted with paid for one course each semester at a local college, paid time off, and required that the staff without at least and AA degree continue their education.

  10. One of my aspirations for ECE is for those who work in the field (or one day field of professional practice) see themselves as professionals whose work has great value to society.

    My assumption is that if we focus internally on leadership development at all levels of the field of ECCE it can be done…

    A supportive example of my assumption –

    I am on the board of an early childhood program that is the umbrella organization for our local Early Head Start and Head Start, the developmental preschool programs in 2 counties and a large child care/preschool program. In recent years rather then always adding directly to wages (we have done that also) the program has focused on ways to support the staff to feel and become more professional. There has been consistent planning time added to their day, a coaching/mentoring program, bonuses for committing and staying a full school year, recognition of length of service, excellent professional development during all program in-service days, and partial tuition reimbursement for higher ed courses. In the 4 years I have been on the board there has been a significant shift in retention, professionalism and the commitment level of the staff. And our community is reacting to the shift and recognizing the organization and more importantly the staff for the important contributions it make to our children, families and the future.

    1. What a wonderful example, Betty! It appears to me that the professionalism of the field may also require connections with community outside of the field through being internally professional and meeting professional standards such as those you list. I also wonder–how did you get the funding to support professional development??!! Such a great and long-lasting impact on quality –! You have a magic touch!!

  11. Robin! I just read your last post and love it! Yes–DAP is appropriate for all ages (that is what Developmentally appropriate means, after all, isn’t it!) PErhaps as part of our ECE professionalism discussion, we need to build connections with teachers/professionals in the 4th through high school/college. This would be a true cradle to career continuum of learning and teaching!

    1. Gayle, I love the idea of cradle to career continuum. I get frustrated at my work a lot, because so much is put out by the Department of Education that is K-12 and they forget to address the needs for birth-K. We have an action plan going with our communications department to help administrators learn more about best practices. It’s exciting to see the steps we are starting to take, but the road is long and slow.

      1. It does have a ring to it, doesn’t it! I agree that often agencies and organizations talk about including early childhood, but mostly do not really consider children under the age of 5–maybe 4–in many of their decisions. Perhaps if we can embed developmentally appropriate in all teaching for all children at all ages, there will be better understanding of the continuum of both learning and teaching?? Yes–we are moving along the road–slowly, but surely. And you remember who won the race between the turtle and the hare!!!

  12. I agree that a degree should be required at least for those who teach others in the field. As I said before I have been a in home daycare provider for 34 years, over that time I have taken many training classes. Some of the classes have been wonderful while others I am sitting thinking why did I waste my time and money for this. As a example one class I took several years ago under the ECE classes was how to use photos in teaching, I went thinking this would be great. I heard how to put up pictures of the kids and their families, pictures of where toys belonged for cleanup help, and how to give photos to parents. I learned nothing and in fact talked about other uses for photos. There needs to be guidelines for teaching ECE to others.

    Also we need to get it across to parents how important play is to learning. Parents expect work pages from children as young as 2, I talk about how we can learn thru play and my families now are understanding, but I feel I have to let possible new parents know how this way of learning helps the children down the road. We have to let them learn how to do and solve problems on their own. We can do many things for the children to learn how to handle pencils, crayons, etc. without making them do schoolwork style paperwork. There are so many creative ways for children to learn and create why should be tell them their way is wrong and ours is right, who knows we may be wrong. I had a 3rd grader a few years ago who came home crying because his teacher gave him a F on his schoolwork when all the answers were right but the teacher could not follow how he came to the answer, it was not like she had told them to do it. He worked hard and got the right answer and if she would have worked half as hard looking at what he wrote she would have saw how he came to the right answer, thank goodness the parents went to talk to her and got him transferred to a different teacher who understood his way of processing information. These are things that hurt children and we have to professionalize ECE so children who are to young to understand others ways of thinking can grow up and become wonderful and caring adults without getting hurt or pushed out of the way

  13. Hi, Cindy!
    You make a good point that EC trainers/educators should have a strong knowledge base (and that would include teachers up to and probably past third grade!) IT is sad that some teachers may not be comfortable (or perhaps have the necessary knowledge) letting children use alternative paths to achieve the same goal. Perhaps solidifying the parameters of the ECE profession is one of the steps that need to be taken to clarify the knowledge base. Most states have an early childhood license for teachers–but that is not usually the path for child care providers. Alignment of the various sectors of early childhood education would be helpful–perhaps?

  14. When I think of what others may think of me (Home childcare provider) I feel that they just think of me as lady who sits home and watches kids all day! My days are crazy and hectic and I’m busy helping kiddos as well as fixing “ouchies”. My job isn’t a cake walk and I take it very seriously since parents are entrusting me with their children. I wish that all people would take ECE very seriously. These kids are our future and we must help them succeed!

  15. Great opening statements Gayle! In the ideal world, I think it’d be awesome if everybody in ECE had a formal degree in it just for the simple fact that it’d help unify the field in terms of basic terminology and minimum training. But this is the real world and I also agree there are plenty of people who naturally are better teachers and have experience that those with a formal degree may lack. I think what also makes the ECE field difficult to make more unified and cohesive is that up until very recently, not much widespread research and evaluations of certain practices were available. As Jack had said, ways of teaching and raising kids has changed drastically in the the last few decades. Even presently, it’s still very hard to come up with some sort of standard because ECE has so many different ideas, styles of teaching, etc. Not to say that’s bad, in fact it’s nice to have so many different resources and options available to better enhance every child’s education. But it still makes it a more difficult process in the professionalizing of ECE, especially in terms of unification and cohesion. I believe and hope that it can be done, but with a lot of open mindedness and cooperation among educators.

  16. The questions and reflections that guide my part of the conversation are as follows:

    “Assumptions behind my ECE actions”, question #1. “What is my personal stake…?”

    Personally, I need to get educated, spend the time and money to get a degree in this field. I work in a corporate string for a large child care company and the company standards are very high across the board. Their goal us for all staff to be teacher qualified with a certificate or degree, all centers with a five star Parent Aware rating and every center to be NAEYC accredited. The accreditation and ratings standards are being met constantly, but the teacher qualifications are new. I feel like our company is making strides on its own to legitimize and standardize the field throughout its efforts, but we are only one piece of an enormous puzzle.

    “Commitment to personal change”, question #5. “What values…seem untouchable?”

    What scale do we use when trying to compare, contrast and “professionalize” child care settings in this country, from home based, church based, center based, or corporate? They are vastly different but some would argue, how can you require the same wages, benefits, education levels and professionalism across all these different settings? My values (experience based) say that center based corporate centers provide more “professionalism”….but I know of many home based centers that are exceptionally qualified to teach children without the same resources available to them. I need to rethink my definition of professionalism.

    “Openness to changing ECE as a field of practice” , question #12 “…what is it I really want to create?”

    I am a toddler teacher and I am good at it because I too, crave routine, repetition and clear boundaries. In creating a field of practice I want clear cut regulations, boundaries and requirements. The topic overwhelms me, however, because I am not sure if that will ever be possible. How do we create sameness when the field is so diverse? This is my biggest question in the upcoming conversations!

    “Conversational Skills”, question #21 , “What are my default reactions…triggers my hot buttons?”

    I think about having this conversation and I get overwhelmed with all the different ideas of “standards”. Who decides? Who monitors? Who regulates? I have a need to make sure people are all following the same rules. I will try to listen more than I talk to gain insight before reacting.

    Again, at this point, more questions than answers, but reflective thinking makes me aware of how I can play a effective role in the conversation.

  17. I think either a degree or formal certificate is important in improving the quality of education provided by childcare providers. I cannot take out more student loans. I would have an interest in preserving the option to obtain a formal certificate, which I would presume to be less onerous than obtaining a degree in the field.

  18. I do not have a degree in ECE, therefore I find Jack’s comments about insecurity hitting home. I do feel I provide a quality education to those in my program but I also feel that I need to prove that to the parents on a regular basis. I have taken more schooling than any of my colleges and yet I still find myself questioning my ability. I recently was awarded a three out of our star rating in our state for child care and yet I find myself striving to do better.

  19. Answering these questions made me realize that while I wish for my chosen career to be professionalized, I am nervous about anything that could jeopardize my program. I wonder if family child care could become a thing of the past?

  20. In any situation change can be a scary thing, professionalizing a field that I have been a part of for more that 17 years is no different. The growing pains that would accompany professionalization can be overwhelming. The teachers in the center I am working in have varied education and field experiences and I treat them all as professionals. When it is needed I help give them the early education lingo for the areas they feel they lack and walk them through their thoughts and plans. I don’t have a degree in early education specifically and would be worried about professionalization in regards to making sure I am able to meet the new requirements…but I would make sure I met them so I could continue in the industry I have been in for 17 years.

  21. I oftentimes doubt my thinking about my program based off of what others are thinking as to what daycare should be or look like verse the developmentally age appropriate things these kids should be doing. The more education we as childcare providers have in child development the better off the children in our care are. We will base things off of the child and their development vers what society thinks as a 4 year ld should be doing. As previously mentioned we are the eyes and ears of these children we are often with them more than their parents we need them and they need us.

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