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Glorified Babysitter. Bum Wiper. Day Nanny.
These are the most common terms I hear in response to 'I work at the Rota MWR Child Development Centre', and unfortunately this misconception that flows throughout the community is one, that as an advocate for the value of early childhood education and educators, would like to address.
On paper, my official title is an Educational Aide. In the generic world of early childhood education I am a caregiver.
In the classroom however, despite the common perception that I earn 'hundreds' of dollars by sitting on my butt all day watching the 'Lord of the Flies' unfold, my actual daily job description reads more like, but certainly not limited to; mediator, fixer-of-boo-boos, cleaner, waitress, snot rag, shoulder to cry on, entertainer, scheduler, bum wiper, artist, repairer, security guard, educational aide, caregiver, and most definitely, teacher.
I am an educator and I take pride in knowing that what I do each day does make a difference in the lives of the children I teach.
Whether it is developing a child's speech through repetitive language activities or teaching a child how to hold a crayon thus developing fine motor and emerging writing skills, the value of an educator towards a child's overall cognitive, social, physical and language development is unquestionable.
'A teacher’s moment-by-moment actions and interactions with children are the most powerful determinant of learning outcomes and development.'
'Curriculum is very important, but what the teacher does is paramount (NAEYC, 2009).'
Before I began working at the MWR Child Development Centre, I was just the parent of a toddler, a parent who -like many in the community- felt that early childhood education -toddler-aged care- was nothing more than expensive daycare, a place for songs, free-play and socialization, not a structured learning environment that focused on the children's development through lesson plans and activities based on observing the children in their daily routines and transitions.
According to the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC, 2009), effective teachers are intentional in their use of a variety of approaches and strategies to support children's interest and ability in each learning domain. Besides embedding significant learning in play, routines, and interest areas, strong programs also provide carefully planned curriculum that focuses children's attention on a particular concept or topic.'
My eyes have been opened and I am truly thankful that I have been given this opportunity -that is so American, but it is true- to go behind-the-scenes as such and understand that, although yes, bums are being wiped and boo-boos fixed, the children -my child- are learning and developing through carefully planned curriculum, not simply a 'here's a toy, go play' approach.
To all educational aides, caregivers, and teachers, be proud of what you do, and of the value that you bring to the children in your care.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, Third Edition, Carol Copple & Sue Bredekamp, eds