Early childhood educator
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- the focus of academically, socially, emotionally, and physically preparing child during this age range and
- the focus of protecting and caring for the child in the absence of his/her primary care giver.
The teachers of early childhood education often hold the titles of early childhood professional, early childhood teacher, early childhood educator, early childhood practitioner, early childhood provider, or early childhood caregiver.
Location of instruction
Early childhood educators provide instruction under several arrangements whose names often overlap and interchange with one another:
- early childhood programs
- child development programs
- children’s centers
- Federally funded programs: Early Head Start (0-2yr olds), Head Start (3-5yr. olds)
- preschools (see Preschool Teacher)
- primary schools (which includes kindergarten through grade three leveling),
- elementary schools (which includes pre-kindergarten through grade five leveling), or
- educational consulting (see Nanny).
- home daycare providers
Roles of the early childhood teacher
In today’s educational world, parents and families contribute as much as teachers, students, and administrators to the educational process…maybe even more. More than any other time in history, involving these community players represents a high priority of most school settings. The measured and researched positive effects of parent involvement on student academic achievement pushes this area into the focus of most school district and early childhood program goals.
Along with the academic benefits of parent/family involvement come the necessity to transition diverse families into sincere, effective relationships with their children's teachers. The family structure of today bears little resemblance to the ones of pre-World War II, post-World War II, the ‘60’s, the ‘70’s, AND the ‘80’s. While in previous generations, many children grew up a two parent, husband-wife home, many of today’s children grow up in single parent homes, broken (divorced) parent homes, mixed (step) family homes, intergenerational (grandparent) homes, guardianship (aunt, uncle, cousin, sibling) homes, and homosexual (lesbian, gay) homes. Families have changed but children have not. They still need a home where they can feel safe, their basic needs of love, food, shelter, clothing are met as well as preapration to become future active participants in society
Diversity also exists in the extreme racial and ethnic mix of today’s children. More than 30% of today’s children enrolled in pre-K-Grade 3 come from families of Latino, African-American, Hispanic, Cuban, East Asian, African, Far East Asian, or Native American backgrounds coupled with a dizzying selection of cultural values. Some align with Islam, others align with Christianity. Some align with Hinduism, others align with no higher being. Early childhood teachers must instruct and nurture without bias in this current system of situations.Teachers must be sensitive to the ever growing diverse population of students within a classroom. Multicultural and antibias curriculum are specific components of study in many preschool classrooms today. Reading. discussing and participating in hands-on multicultural experiences fosters awareness and tolerance for other cultures. Teachers must equip their classrooms in order to create an environment that welcomes all children and their families. Teachers must pay close attention to the cultures represented within their classroom and beyond.
Parent/Involvement represents many different constraints of time from volunteering in the teacher’s class to fortifying the instruction at school with instruction at home to serving on highly influential policy committees within a public school district. An early childhood teacher must forthrightly hone his/her skills in promoting parenting knowledge, parenting skills, collaborating with parents in instructional decisions, communicating between home/school, advocating for increased parent involvement. Many early childhood professionals succeed in these areas through newsletters, phone calls, parent/teacher communication folders, emailing, hosting parent/child activities at school, parent/teacher conferences, parent-focused workshops, and continual, in-service professional development.
Working with other adults
In order to nurture the development of children and families while including them in the process, and early childhood professional must work effectively with other teachers and other education professionals such as: speech pathologists, behavior specialists, educational consultants, child psychologists, and social workers. Other community figures, early childhood experts,politicians, and administrators may influence children and their families both directly or indirectly through case studies, research, and legislature.
A teacher does not know everything, but each teacher knows something valuable to share; therefore, he/she must hone the skills of sharing and obtaining the needed knowledge from other, more experienced teachers. The existence of professional organizations like the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) or the Southern Early Childhood Association (SECA). They allow early childhood teachers to meet other individuals in their discipline who can offer helpful ideas and to disseminate on a large scale the very latest and most innovatively effective teaching methodologies to early childhood professionals the world over.
A teacher needs to continually seek more and more specific information on his/her teaching from those who hold the highest expertise on particular areas. By participating in-service workshops and taking higher education early childhood courses, he/she will avoid the stagnation of knowledge by constantly injecting the cutting-edge ideas into old, reliable ones.
Policy changes in early childhood education (like many fields) occur by way of individuals who possess little knowledge of the field itself. Teachers represent the most valuable sources of knowledge to help them make informed legislative and regulatory decisions. In order to receive this information, teachers must put forth effort to communicate the ideas of early childhood education as advocates. They must first keep up with the laws and policies governing early childhood and then write with tact to their congressmen and senators about discrepancies, inaccuracies, damaging misconceptions, and, especially, better ways to govern the discipline. They should regularly communicate their ideas and opinions to newspaper editorials or early childhood periodicals in order to add to the world symposium of early childhood conceptual base knowledge.
Communicating with the administrator (principal or child center director) represents a primary way to contribute to shaping the field of early childhood education. The process between your viewpoint and the initiation of change in wide-reaching practice takes a much shorter time in this situation. Expressing concerns, making suggestions, and acknowledging successful school-wide policies affecting early childhood education inform administrators with valuable, first hand information that they can use to make future decisions.
Early childhood consulting (like serving as a Nanny) continues to rise as a burgeoning sector of early childhood education. Often they require the very highest of educational (i.e. PhD. in early childhood education, many years of teaching) qualities and excellent references. This stems from the fact that services often happen on a full-time, residential (living in the employer's home) basis for highly affluent families. Care and education often happens on a round-the-clock basis.
Teachers and parents need to work closely together so they are on the same page. This only helps the students out because the parents are at an understanding of what needs to be accomplished. The effort for this communication must come from both sides.
Education of the early childhood teacher
Early childhood teachers exhibit many different levels of educational preparation depending on their role, what type of setting in which they teach, and in which state that they teach within.
Generally early childhood teachers in the United States receive training in three ways: (1) earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in early childhood education or child development, (2) earning an associate degree in early childhood education, early child care and development, or child development, (3) developing and demonstrating competency through a competency-based assessment system such as the National Child Development Associate (CDA) program.
Most early childhood teachers in public school pre-K-Grade 3 classrooms possess state certification through an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university program approved by the state for training teachers. Teacher Assistants in these classrooms receive are required to obtain an associate degree (in any area, not just early childhood related areas) with some course credit in child development or early childhood education at the very least.
On the other hand, most non-public institutions offering child care and education vary in the type of education required of their teachers. Larger more commercially known, chain child care centers, for example, either align their teacher qualifications with the public school's model or offer even more intense qualifications (i.e. experience working with certain types of children, experience working with diverse types of children, specific training in Montessori or High/Scope curricula, graduate/advanced degrees). At the opposite pole of the spectrum, many day care centers focused mainly on providing supervision for working parents and less on providing a credible education program for their development employ teachers with little or no formal early childhood training. An associate's degree in a related field, CDA training, or a history with working with children of a certain age often suffices as adequate qualifications. However, many states continue to tighten and raise their standards for quality and education among early childhood programs in order to recommendations for full, state-approved licensure.