In a bold strategic initiative called Power to the Profession, NAEYC made the statement that “positive relationships are at the core of quality, investing specifically in early childhood educators is the best thing we can do to improve early childhood education” (NAEYC, 2019). Because you are enrolled in this course, it is safe to say that you are interested in becoming a professional within the field of early learning and recognize that positive relationships are at the core of our work. The Power to the Profession initiative is attempting to recognize that the work we do in classrooms each day is recognized as a very important profession within our society. It is critically important that the behavior we engage in each day reflects the professional ideals of the field.
Being recognized as a professional goes beyond the personal traits discussed earlier in this chapter. It also requires the typical “soft skills” a good employee might need (being to work on time, having a positive attitude, communicating well, keeping personal grievances outside of the workplace among others) and also includes following the values and ethics outlined by the profession itself.
Early childhood professionals are diverse with different perspectives. This is why we turn to the NAEYC Code of Ethics to provide an understanding of professional behavior. The code can also serve as a guide to help resolve ethical dilemmas.
Code of Ethics
The NAEYC code of ethics provides the field with a set of professional beliefs and commitments. As previously mentioned, this code can guide our daily work, as well as assist as a reference when faced with ethical dilemmas in the workplace.
The code is comprised of Ideals and Principles, but at the very foundation of the code is a set of core values. These core values express central beliefs, commitments to society and the common purpose of our profession. Figure 1.1 illustrates the core values as published in the code of ethics.
|NAEYC Core Values|
Most people within the field of early learning find themselves in agreement with the core values set forth in the code. As you grow within the profession, you might begin to see alignment of your own personal values reflected in your daily work. Chapter 2 of this text will provide a deep dive into the code of ethics published by NAEYC.
Many people believe that the smartest investment a country could make to their society is to advocate for quality early childhood education, and an advocate for early learning is a person that would support the cause of early learning. A recent UNICEF report indicates that “children enrolled in early childhood education programs are more likely to stay in school and attain minimum reading and math competencies extending beyond elementary education” (July 2019). That makes it seem as though advocating for early childhood education becomes not only an investment in our future as a society in general, but an easy decision at that! However, according to UNICEF 175 million children are currently not engaged in any type of early childhood education programs. In low-income countries, nearly 8 out of 10 children are missing out on early childhood classrooms.
In Washington State, there are many groups that advocate for quality early learning to support children, families, and programs where children are enrolled. Agencies such as Child Care Aware, Children’s Alliance, the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Washington State Family Child Care Association, and Washington Association for the Education of Young Children are just a few.
Advocating for all children is very much a part of the fabric of what we do. Advocacy work doesn’t have to be national, sweeping movements, but rather, it can be showing that early investments in children are important to the healthy growth and development of all children. Working together as a profession in our individual communities to share the important work that we do provides the support that all children should be able to access the early education they deserve. How to create advocacy opportunities will be discussed broadly in chapter 2 of this text. When thinking about advocacy, many people have images of talking with politicians trying to convince them of the importance of a passion, or some people might think that advocacy involves lengthy letter writing campaigns. But advocacy doesn’t have to be that difficult and can be as simple as talking with friends, families, neighbors and others in your community about your passion for working with young children and families. Often, this begins by telling your own story of why you chose to be in this profession. Advocacy also includes keeping up with what is happening in the field, both in terms of current trends, and the ties to historical perspective.
Working with Families
Just like each child is unique, every family is unique and the child(ren) you are working with comes to you each day wrapped in a blanket of family values, culture, attitudes and beliefs. Building positive and good working relationships with families is a very important part of the work early childhood educator’s role. Partnering with parents allows the children that you teach to see that the important adults in their life are working together and can help both them and the family to be comfortable in your classroom environment.
Just like any relationship the family-teacher relationship can be complex and can include many people. This could include the child’s family, the teacher, the staff at the child’s program, and the community that they child lives within. By working together, you can build a rich environment that supports both the child and their family which will serve as models for creating positive relationships within the community.
Sometimes early childhood teachers become representatives for resources for families. You may find yourself in the role of bridging resources within the community to the families you serve. This may involve employing a variety of communication techniques to support families. Whether it is a classroom app or other social media, a newsletter or bulletin board, representing all families and including all family members is vital to building healthy relationships.
Some programs, particularly Head Start programs, incorporate a portion of their programming devoted to Home Visits. This allows the teacher to become acquainted with the family in the child’s familiar home environment. In some cases, this can strengthen the relationship with the family, while other families may feel vulnerable when a “teacher comes calling”. Whatever the communication may be, it is important to remember that building positive trusting relationships with the family of children is a core value of the profession.
What do you believe you will bring into the field of early learning in terms of your own professional values?