I believe that early childhood educators have the most important job out there, but so often we are looked at as merely, “babysitters” in the larger context of professions. In order to change the perception that many hold in our society, we need to create a clear message about why our work is more important or just as important as other professionals in the world. We need to start by understanding the significance of the work we are doing and be able to communicate this to our stakeholders.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a Code of Ethical Conduct and a set of core values, ideals and principles as documented in the Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment, Revised April, 2005. This document serves as a platform for talking points to improving the professional status of our work and is a great reminder of just how important early childhood educators are in the world.
The magnitude of how our work directly affects the larger society requires us to be able to create professional boundaries and expect respect from other professions. Consider the following, which will help to bolster our professional status.
- Dress professionally and appropriately for our work. I understand that we are on the floor, in paint, sand, woodchips, covered with glitter, have bodily fluids on us, etc., but if we want to be looked at as a professional, we need to wear clothes that communicate a respect for our profession. Consider the following: how your clothes fit; body parts showing; torn or tattered or faded clothes; wording or logos on clothes; appropriate footwear; etc. We are obviously not going to be wearing suits, but there are appropriate clothing items that work well for the type of work we are doing and give a message of, “I am the professional”.
- Arrive to work each day well-groomed and with a smile!
- Provide parents with research based articles and information to support the educational values we hold in ECE. NAEYC, and many other professional associations and university organizations, have a wealth of research based information to support early childhood topics. Utilizing position papers and other evidence based articles, helps parents see the knowledge we hold.
- Communicate with parents during the work day, not on weekends or evenings. If we hold the same time boundaries as other professions, parents will begin to see us as in the same light.
- Do NOT give parents your personal cell phone number, personal email, or access to your social media. This can quickly blur the lines of the professional parent/teacher relationship you establish.
- Address parents by Mr./Mrs. and their last names. This more formal interaction will support your professional image.
- Be able to clearly articulate why you are doing what you are doing. Keep in mind that you ARE the expert in the subject matter; be able to articulate your knowledge confidently and succinctly.
- Do not engage in gossip or hearsay with parents. It is easy to get caught up in a conversation, so stay professional and avoid talking about others with parents.
- Do not use social media as a platform to discuss your work. It can very easily connect back to you through friends of friends of friends.
- Proofread everything you send out. Make sure it looks and sounds professional.
Early childhood educators must take it upon themselves to improve their image. Conduct yourself like the expert and professional you are each and every day and make the world take notice of our immense value and worth.