It’s not more worthy of celebration than any other year, but somehow this year just lands differently in the hearts of early childhood educators.
Perhaps it’s because we need appreciation for the work we do now more than ever. Perhaps it’s because, for the first time in a long time, early childhood educators and others working with young children have felt noticed, even labelled essential. While we are yet to see the change this field needs to see, these bits and pieces of acknowledgement give us hope.
We have been reminded of many things in the world of early childhood education these past 14 months. Challenges of low wages, burnout, recruitment and retention have all been magnified. While we continue to hear about funds for new spaces, we must acknowledge that we have lost many programs and too many early childhood educators in our province in this last year.
If you watch an early childhood educator in practice, you see compassion, love, learning, engagement, connection and joy.
What you don’t see is the mental load being carried through this COVID-19 pandemic.
How do we best support families from a distance? How do we ensure children’s developmental needs are fully met? How will this affect their mental health, their social development, their behaviour, their ability to read body language, facial expressions and build strong communication skills? How will this all affect their compassion and generosity? What will society look like for these children and how can we adequately prepare them?
Early childhood professionals know that birth to the age of six are years of exponential growth and development. We are all too aware that we do not get these years back when this coronavirus pandemic is over.
What is good enough?
Our practice is entirely shaped around making the absolute best of these years. So, every day we ask ourselves if what we’re doing is enough. Is the modified COVID-19 version good enough?
We, unfortunately, cannot answer those questions. But, what we do know is that we have every reason in the world, about knee-high, right in front of us, to continue to show up day in and day out, and do everything we can to make the best of things within the limitations of the world we are currently living in.
So, this month, let’s show our early childhood educators and other child-care professionals some extra love. The most beautiful thing about those who work with children is that this love will be redirected right back to the children. This year, they need that more than ever, too.
Let’s celebrate our early childhood educators for showing up. I know it sounds simple. But, those who work with young children show up in a way that is beyond admirable. They give their whole being to the children daily, in the most genuine way, not motivated by wages, recognition from others or any external forces; it comes from a wholehearted passion and love for working with children.
This year, let’s also take time to recognize our children for their resiliency, flexibility and for bringing us joy in a world that some days is, admittedly, rather hard to face. Share an ice cream together and let them know that you see them, that you see how brave they’ve been.
Let them know you see how they have faced the changes beyond their control with an open mind and loving heart, and how it has inspired you to do the same.
Maggie Ellwyn is an infant-toddler early-childhood educator in Powell River. May is Child Care Month in BC.