Opinion
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor

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

May 12, 2015 1 min read

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

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
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

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 'I Didn't Hug My Children for 3 Months'
When COVID rates rose, a teacher's sacrifices to stay in the classroom didn't seem to count, writes researcher Lori Bartlett.
Lora Bartlett
2 min read
Conceptual image of teacher voice
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
Teaching Profession Opinion Only 15 Students Showed Up for Online Class. Then, Teachers Got Creative
When COVID-19 closed school buildings, teachers worked to exhaustion but also felt proud.
Lora Bartlett
1 min read
A teacher shares her pandemic experience.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and PeopleImages/iStock
Teaching Profession Opinion Teachers Were Told to 'Give Grace' as the Pandemic Started. They Did That and Much More
Districts offered little guidance otherwise, writes researcher Lora Bartlett.
Lora Bartlett
4 min read
Illustration of teachers working
F. Sheehan/Getty
Teaching Profession Educators of Color: Schools Need to Better Support Racial Justice Efforts
A new survey of educators of color finds that few received any training for addressing racism and violence with their students.
5 min read
Image of a teacher and students.
nadia_bormotova/iStock/Getty