Recently, I took a leap into early childhood education. I teach 4- and 5-year-olds full-time at an early childhood learning center.
I spend my days teaching children about the alphabet, writing their name, the colors, the weather and other basic knowledge they need to enter Kindergarten. There's a catch, though. A lot of people just think of me as a glorified babysitter.
Sorry to disappoint, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
Every day, my students become more and more curious about the world around them. They come up to me and ask me things like, "What is this animal?" as they hold up a plastic animal from our science center.
This leads to a conversation about Zebras and what they do and where they're from etc.
This also leads me to ask and prompt questions of my students like, "What colors are on the Zebra?" and "What letters are in 'Zebra'?"
Early childhood educators like myself teach children the basics so that they can be set up for a successful future.
If myself and so many others weren't here to teach young children about things like the alphabet, how would they ever survive or advance to high school, for example, where they would be expected to write four, five even six page essays?
How would they begin to communicate what they need and what they want using their words instead of just crying?
How would they begin to recognize and comprehend the world around them if they can't even verbally describe what they are feeling or seeing?
Early childhood educators are not babysitters, and that's something this world needs to understand and get right like yesterday.
Oh, and those fun projects you see young children make in preschool aren't just fun projects. They're creative ways to get their minds engaged and thinking about the information that is being taught to them.
For example, my class is doing an art theme right now, so we're going to be making pictures using only shapes. What seems like just a fun activity is actually teaching my students their shapes and how they fit in with one another and how everything is comprised of and made up of shapes.
But please, do continue to tell me how I'm "just a babysitter."
Early childhood educators also begin to help children learn how to solve their own problems. When another child does something they don't like, we teach them how to use their words to let them know they didn't like that.
Think about the success this is setting them up for in their future.
Being able to communicate your thoughts in a respectful and well-mannered way is a huge tool to success in life both professionally and personally. By teaching them how to tell their friends they don't like it when they take the bike they were playing with, we're teaching them a life-long skill.
So the next time you think about calling me a babysitter, just think about everything early childhood educators taught your child that you didn't even think of giving us credit for.