Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

Are Early-Childhood Educators ‘Real’ Teachers? You Bet They Are.

May 12, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

At the end of the early-childhood-education classes I teach, we discuss issues related to professionalism. Recently, this conversation with one of my students took an unexpected turn when she asked me if she was a “real” teacher.

I asked her what she meant by real teacher.

I knew that my student had worked at a child-care center in a preschool room for a couple of years. She was halfway through an associate degree in our applied science degree program.

She waved her hand at me and said: “You know, a real teacher. Aren’t we just babysitters who call themselves teachers?”

I told her that early-childhood teachers make developmentally appropriate lesson plans. They have studied Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner, Lev Vygotsky, and Erik Erikson. They know about typical child development. They know how to make a referral. They individualize care. They know how to communicate with families, keep children safe, and help them reach their potential.

Of course they are real teachers.

But I missed the point.

I was so caught up in preparing and ensuring that my students acted like professionals that I skipped over the fact that they are not treated as professionals.

How could she feel like a “real” teacher if she was making $9 an hour with little prospect of increased wages after finishing a degree? Don’t real teachers receive benefits from their employers?

Early-childhood teachers are working within a very critical window of brain development. We know that what happens during the early years can shape the trajectory of a person’s life. Yet, we treat the teachers of young children as if they weren’t professionals or worthy of a life outside of poverty. I tell my students that they are professionals, but our society doesn’t treat them as professionals.

I tell them that their work is undervalued. I tell them that I think there is hope for change. But is hope enough?

Sarah B. Smith

Program Coordinator

Early-Childhood Education

Gateway Community and Technical College

Covington, Ky.

A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2015 edition of Education Week as Are Early-Childhood Educators ‘Real’ Teachers? You Bet They Are.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Science of Reading: Emphasis on Language Comprehension
Dive into language comprehension through a breakdown of the Science of Reading with an interactive demonstration.
Content provided by Be GLAD
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion Why Is the Nation Invested in Tearing Down Public Education?
Education professor Deborah Loewenberg Ball argues that panic over test scores keeps us from building on the strengths of our children.
Deborah Loewenberg Ball
5 min read
Illustration of school text books and wrecking ball.
F. Sheehan for Education Week / Getty
Teaching Profession Teachers Censor Themselves on Socio-Political Issues, Even Without Restrictive State Laws
A new survey from the RAND Corporation found that two-thirds of teachers limit their instruction on political and social issues in class.
4 min read
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class is debating whether President Trump should be impeached. The House impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine has become a teachable moment in classrooms around the country as educators incorporate the events in Washington into their lesson plans.
Civics teacher Aedrin Albright stands before her class at Chatham Central High School in Bear Creek, N.C., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. The class was debating whether President Trump should be impeached. A new national survey found that a majority of teachers are now limiting instruction on political and social issues in class.
Allen G. Breed/AP
Teaching Profession 10 Major Challenges for Substitute Teachers
Substitute teachers want more support to do their jobs well. One state has identified their top concerns.
4 min read
Illustration of people climbing stacks of books. There are 3 stacks of books at different heights with people helping people climb up.
iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession What the Research Says How to Refresh a Dwindling Pipeline of STEM Teachers? Researchers Share Strategies
The pool of science teachers is getting younger and less prepared than it once was.
5 min read
A female teacher bends over an elementary school boy's desk to help him with the slide on his microscope.
E+