I began my career in education in 1985 in the campus child care center of UMASS/Boston, where I was studying estuarian geography. I had no intention of making a career in early education. I was going to study rivers and lead canoe trips . Seriously. That was my plan, and the gig in the child care center was my work study job.
I never finished that degree, I never moved to Colorado to lead white water rafting tours, I didn’t conduct river quality research.
I became an early educator. I’ve done just about every job in my field. I’ve tried to do other things, but I am just meant to be here in this field.
It’s hard, hard work. It’s often gross. (Ask me about the time I had to scrub human feces out of a toddler’s pink Croc, because she tried to change her own diaper.) It is woefully underpaid. (The average salary for someone working full-time in early childhood is $24,000.00/12-month year. )
The pandemic has hit my field especially hard. It’s not an overstatement to say that child care and early education programs are in a crisis in this country.
So, this first week of May, National Teacher Appreciation Month, join me in showing the teachers–especially the early childhood teachers–in your life some love. Send a message to the teachers who have impacted your life through social media. Bring your child care provider a coffee one morning this week. Ask your teachers what they need to best care for your kids. They might ask for you to read a book each night, or to have you send in an extra box of tissues to make it through allergy season. They might ask you to come to a school committee meeting or join their parent advisory board or to call your legislators to tell your stories.
I’ll leave you with an anecdote from this past week that has kept me going through another week of hard, hard , gross, underfunded work: A preschooler was falling asleep at rest time. Suddenly, her eyes popped open and she urgently asked, “Ms. Kristen, does Santa have cousins?!” This job never gets old.