This post has been in progress for a long time. I have chipped away at it, a sentence here, a word there, for months. Re-reading it now, I am worried it sounds like a rant, like I am angry. And yet, not a single word of this came from a place of anger. It has all come from a place of pride, a reminder to myself to respect the work I do every single day. As early childhood professionals, we must take ourselves more seriously, before we ask parents, administrators, ed reformers, and the general public to do so. We must honour ourselves and the work that we do. We must respect our own miracles.
I teach kindergarten. I am not cute, although my students sometimes are. I do not wear denim jumpers or Winnie the Pooh Christmas sweaters (although I mean no disrespect to my colleagues who do). I am NICE, but not in the way that means "superficially pleasant" I am NICE in the way that means GOOD, positive, kind, and genuine. I say please and thank you to adults and children alike. I keep to the right in the hallway, hold the door for the person behind me, and use an inside voice, because those are the habits I want my students to have.
I am highly educated. I have a Bachelor's degree in Education, and a Master's Degree in Child Development. My master's is a "REAL" Ivory-Tower-Academia, 2.5 yrs of full-time studies, Master's, complete with quantitative research, statistical analysis, a 100-page thesis, and publications. I got straight As in phD-level statistics classes. I collaborated on a chapter published in a highly-regarded academic book on school-readiness. I know HOW to assess children's skills, and I know that my own observations tell me more than formal assessments (note that i will not dignify the word "testing" by including it here). I read original, peer-reviewed, published research.I push my school to participate in research, and I sit with my colleagues and administrators as we pore over the results. Because I put my whole life on hold for 2.5 years of full-time studies, I have nothing but admiration for colleagues who do graduate degrees while continuing to work. I am pretty sure their path is rockier than mine was.
I know things. I know that playdough is the best way to cleanup spilled glitter. I know that a pint of water added to a sandbox changes everything. I know that some kids print better with golf pencils than with those giant kindergarten pencils. I know how to get tempera paint off a white uniform shirt while a sobbing child frets about "what mommy will say." I know that some kids need tough love and some kids need sweet love and some kids need both at the same time. I know how to give both at the same time.
I love my students. I am in the business of childcare, and I have no illusions about that. I. Care. For. Children. all day, every day. I hold hands and wipe noses and dry tears. I hand out bandaids. I kiss boo boos. I open snacks and tie shoes and zip coats. I desperately wish someone would design mittens that children can put on ALL BY THEMSELVES. I touch children constantly, because I believe too many people are afraid to touch other people's kids in a loving way. I ruffle hair and stroke cheeks and rub backs. I gather children up in my lap and let them cry all over my clean sweater.
I do not work alone. I honour their families even when I don't really understand them. I know that parents are my most powerful allies, and I believe that most parents are doing their absolute very best with the knowledge they have. I collaborate with colleagues I adore and respect and sometimes we argue and agree to disagree, but we go on respecting each other.
I am a smartass. I do sharp and true impersonations of my students and my colleagues. I laugh when kids say inappropriate things. I occasionally lapse into sarcasm that flies far over most 5-year-olds heads. I drop the occasional F-bomb with colleagues. I make a lot of jokes about drinking at work. I do NOT drink at work. Ever. Not even on field trips.
I do hard things. Before winter break in any given year, I have explained cancer, fire drills, famine, homelessness, war, and lockdown procedures to 4 and 5 year olds. After winter break, I tackle racism, environmentalism, international relations, democracy, and natural disasters. Over apple slices and cheese strings, I moderate respectful debates over the existence of God, ghosts, monsters, heaven, elves, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy.
I make miracles every day.
What do you do?