Last week was teacher appreciation week. I have been a teacher for roughly 12 or so years – an early childhood teacher who is unforgivingly titled as a “Daycare worker.” My lack of state or national certification does not make me less deserving to be called a Teacher. This frequent “mistake” has even made me hesitant to tell people my occupation because the next question is, “oh! what grade?” Then I have to explain that it’s not a grade but an age. And unless I say I am teaching 4 and 5-year-olds, people picture piles of diapers, runny noses, and constant temper tantrums, which is not far from the truth. However, being an early childhood teacher requires lessons in not only numbers, letters, and shapes but we must also teach self-awareness, self-help, and self-expression. It has often been quoted that the 1st five years are the foundational years and I have never taken that lightly. For most, it is not until they require childcare, that people realize the importance of preschools and child development centers. Or some see another child, same age as their own, and that child is potty trained at 16 months or reading at 2 years old that they learn that their child is being taught and not attended to. Despite having taught infants, toddlers and 4 and 5-year-olds, I have never taken my role for granted. At one point, I felt that my teaching certification would provide me the validation needed for the public. It was not until recently that I have found my own validation in my teaching abilities. I have always been an advocate for early childhood programs, but it has been a hard fight trying to convince most that even though my day does not end at 3pm, I teach the children AND their parents, day in and day out.
I LOVE being a teacher. It is my gift. The amount of gratification I receive cannot be described. It is not my only calling in life, but it positively frames how I present myself to the world. I no longer wish to trade with 2nd-grade teachers in order to earn some level of professional respect. I have lost the desire to force myself into the public school system as an early childhood teacher (even though I applaud the state for including ECE into the school system ♥). Being a teacher is an often thankless job, that’s why we get a “teacher appreciation!” Parents and administrations have the opportunity to say or show thanks. A simple act that goes a long way. Most parents of children under age 5 cannot wait until Monday morning to deposit their child back to “daycare” and cannot imagine having 10 of the same age running around. Those same parents expect their child to talk, walk, read, write, and potty by age 5 through those “daycare workers.” So even if I cannot be called a teacher or if parents can’t say that their child attends school, “thank you for all you do” will suffice. I can and have adapted to the rest.
Give love. Get love.