Are Early Childhood Educators Real Teachers?

Head shot of Ijumaa with power point slide shots

Overview of the professional development sessions:

It was my pleasure to facilitate three professional development sessions on Reflective Practice. Early childhood educators who work throughout San Mateo County, California attended these session. Experience ranged from a few years to over 30 years working with children and families as classroom teachers. Many were new to the idea of reflective thinking and practice, but were eager to engage in the work. This professional development is unique in that we worked in a community of practice model.

There is a field work component where participants offer a play experience to children and document the play with pictures and anecdotal notes. They return to the next session and share their documentation with group to discuss and analysis using the Thinking Lens (c). This particular session, educators were offered sand trays and explored children’s learning schemas.

Sand tray with loose parts #1

Sand tray with loose parts #2

Are Preschool Teachers real teachers?

The conversation that has stuck with me is the struggle some early childhood educators have in being viewed as competent professionals educators by teachers in elementary school, families they work with, and their own families.

Glorified babysitters or not real teachers compared to K-12 educators are common stereotypes of early childhood educators. This stereotype is based in the sexist idea that work historically done by women such as childrearing and educating children doesn’t take any particular skill or specialized education. This belief is false. Understanding child development and implementing curriculum that supports healthy development is complex emotionally, physically, and intellectually. It’s not work everyone can do or should do and being a particular gender is not a prerequisite.

Early childhood educators work with small children but don’t do small work.

Early childhood educators who work with children in their early years of development are different from K-12 educators because the developmental and learning needs of younger children are different. Young children need and deserve educators who understand and support their “care and education”. A small example of what early childhood educators need to know are: how to change a diaper, how to support children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development. Also, how to make and sustain healthy relationships with themselves, children, families, and co-workers, in addition to health and safety regulations.

Early childhood educators have the honor of being the first adult outside of their families that children learn from and with. Research has shown the rapid brain development that happens in the early years and the importance of the all the adults in their lives to make sure development happens at an optimal rate for the child. Being an early childhood educator is not an occupation for someone without skill or knowledge.

 Early education deserves respect and a worthy wage.

Since early childhood educators are skillful and knowledgable they deserve a worthy wage. This is not the reality for educators in general and early childhood educators in particular. Early childhood teachers are some of the lowest paid people in the county. The pay is not a reflection of the worth of the educator but a reflection of the low value society puts on women and educating young children. I am a firm believer in the #worthywage movement. Early educators deserve better wages, work conditions and respect for the work that they do.

Be Proud!

I encouraged the early childhood educators to look at their commitment to professional growth. They formed a community of practice by showing up multiple Saturdays to explore reflective practice. I asked them to remember the documentation and the stories that were shared about the wonderful children their program. Also, how they improved their documentation skills and seeing children fully through working together in a community of practice.

And I saw them walk out that room as the true professionals they are.

Group shot of Ijumaa and the participants of the Reflective Teaching Community of Practice 2017

Yes, Early Childhood Educators are REAL Teachers!

Review of 2014


Hello Friends,

I spent part of my last work trip of 2014 in Pacifica, CA to co-present at a small education conference roundtable. This picture of a sunset reminds me that there is beauty in endings. Ending of the daylight, the ending of a year.

As part of my family’s Kwanzaa tradition we make commitments for the new year. Growing up we were asked to think of a few commitments we wanted to make to ourselves, our family, and community during the week of Kwanzaa and share them on the last day of Kwanzaa which is Imani.

As an adult, it’s my practice to review and reflect on the past year. Make my commitments and share those as a preview of what I would like the new year to be about. Also, I used a template from Rosetta of Happy Black Woman. Which was helpful in keeping me focused and actually writing my thoughts down.

I made four commitments for 2014

1. To waist hoop for 10 minutes.

2. Take a solo vacation.

3. Incorporate more active play in my workshops.

4. Book work in the Philadelphia area.

I achieved 3 out of the 4. Yay!

Highlights from my review of 2014

Commitment #1 Hoop Challenge

I can now hoop on my waist in both flows for 10 minutes. It took me about 2 months to master and it’s the accomplishment I’m most proud of because I worked hard to learn kinetically which is my lowest learning mode. Haven’t figured out how to take hooping selfies, maybe I will that to 2015’s commitments.

Commitment #2 Solo vacation

Even though I travel alone for work 95% of the time I was hesitant to take a solo vacation. I did it big by booking an international trip to Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been to both places before for work but this was the first time for a holiday!

Here are some favorite photos from the trip.


Orlando Towers


Posing in front of the Welcome to Soweto sign.


Johannesburg center (Black and White)


Entering the Apartheid Museum


Mural at Robson Island


Meeting up with Emily in Cape Town


Table Mountain


Looking out over Cape Town

Going through my pictures and notes, I didn’t have any reason to be anxious. I had an amazing time relaxing, making new friends, exploring the urban landscape, and indulging my inner history buff.

Commitment #3 – Play in workshops

Just as I believe children learn through play, I believe adults can learn through play as well.

I’m facilitating two communities of practice in San Mateo, CA. We are using Reflecting in Communities of Practice: A Workbook for Early Childhood Educators for our study book.

The picture below is from the beginning of the year where they participated in a study session recreating a child’s play with cellophane and created their own ideas about how to play with this interesting material.


Cellophane falling through the air!

I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the educators at Little Owl Preschool (Thanks Dawn) to explore what it means to be in a democratic classroom. The final experience was play acting children’s conflicts. This group of educators completely immersed themselves in the roles of children. Note: I was a captive audience.


Play acting children’s conflicts (credit Dawn Velez)

Towards the end of the year I co-presented a full day session at WECA conference with my good friend, Kelly Matthews of A Place for You Early Childhood Consulting. The picture below captures a participant building with the mini blocks in an color pattern.


Color play with mini blocks


Those are the highlights of 2014. What were your accomplishments of 2014? What’s your tradition of reflecting on the past year?

The preview of 2015…coming soon!