5 Myths About Preschool Teachers (and What You Can Do About It)

A career in early childhood education can be really misunderstood by other professionals, friends and even family. It is a profession that is also grossly undervalued by society given the net social benefit that comes of it.  

Here are 5 misconceptions about preschool teachers and what you can do to change the perception.

Myth #1: Preschool teachers are just babysitters

Fact: 90% of our brain development as humans happens predominantly from the ages 0-5. Due to this, every waking moment of a child’s existence during their first 5 years is a learning opportunity. Even something as simple as sitting upright is a huge learning milestone for an infant!

Early learning is traditionally divided into 5 main developmental domains: social, emotional, physical, communication and cognition. Further to these main areas of growth, there are different education philosophies and curricula that different centers follow: Montessori, emergent, Reggio and Waldorf (to name a few).   

All these factors, on top of the basic requirement of keeping children safe and happy, are the things that childcare professionals have to take into account in their daily work. This is much more than simply “watching” children or babysitting in the conventional sense that it is understood by society.

What you can do: Early educators get into the field because they love (I mean, love) children and a big part of the job is also educating new parents. While focusing on children is important, broadening the scope of your work to include working with parents outside of the classroom can really bring awareness to what really goes into working with young children at a preschool level.

Myth #2: Working in childcare means playing with children all day

Fact: Children are growing and developing at a very quickly while they are at childcare. In reality, babies, infants, toddlers and preschoolers have very different needs. The younger the child, the smaller the child to teacher ratio as the care required is more concentrated. Ask any new parent if all they do is play with their kiddos all day and see what they say! Due to the fact that each age range is so different, teachers tend to specialize and focus on one group throughout their careers.

Now, this is not to say that play isn’t involved in working with children. Maria Montessori’s famous saying “play is a child’s work” holds a lot of weight as children engage the world through play. As each age group has different learning requirements, understanding the different stages of early childhood development is key for teachers to develop a curriculum that provides age-appropriate activities to support early development.

What you can do: Involve parents in the learning process! The home and school should complement each other as learning environments and facilitating continuity between the two spaces helps parents understand the value of age-appropriate play and how this contributes to their child’s learning.

Myth #3: Anyone can be a preschool teacher if they wanted to

Fact: As we enter a digital age where information is extremely accessible, the demand for quality childcare from parents is increasing across the board. Many states are responding to this by implementing Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS) to help centers improve the quality of their care. This means that educators have to go through continuous professional development to stay in the field and young educators are entering the field with Bachelor or even Post-graduate degrees in Early Childhood Education.

To put things into perspective, preschool teachers not only have to attend trainings while on the job, they are also entering the field with 3-5 years of school under their belts! Also, a lot of educators then transition into a more operations-focused role and have to pick up other skills to run their centers. Not so easy after all, is it?

What you can do: Talk to the parents you work with about early education. The general public knows very little about how childcare works or even the qualifications required to become an educator. Building strong rapport with the families you work with is key to gaining more public recognition for the field.

Myth #4: Parents don’t need to be involved in preschool

Fact: Teacher-family partnerships are key to ensuring that each child is supported to the fullest of their potential. The logic to this is pretty straightforward: if parents and teachers communicate with each other clearly and are aware of how a child is in school and at home, it gives a more holistic picture of their development. This can only benefit the child as they will get more consistency in their learning both at school and at home!

Recent studies have found that parent engagement (regardless of socioeconomic background) has a huge impact on improving the quality of programming at a childcare center. This is because parents can continue and reinforce a child’s learning at home and encourage children to love the learning process!  

What you can do: Create an environment that invites parents to participate in the learning. Volunteer nights or group activities that bring parents together can build a community around your classroom. The impact of community translates to a more enriched learning experience for the child. After all, it does take a village!

Myth #5: Preschool fees are so expensive, surely teachers are paid well

Fact: Yes, a common sentiment held by anyone looking for childcare is that quality can come at a hefty price tag equalling or exceeding the cost of college tuition. The average annual cost per child for childcare in the U.S. is $8,320 per year, but there is a huge misconception around the costs required to run a childcare program.

While the fees that parents pay do funnel into paying teachers, they also account for food, supplies (diapers, sheets), teaching materials, toys, insurance, furniture, curriculum, administrative supplies, licensing fees, cooking and cleaning supplies, facility maintenance and much more!   

The reality is that after taking all the costs into consideration, preschool teachers are amongst one of the most undervalued professionals out there and rank even lower than janitors on average in a salary comparison across professions. Due to having earnings hovering around minimum wage, many teachers work really long hours, depend on their spouse’s income and even have to resort to working multiple jobs to make ends meet. On an even more serious note, the inability for preschool teachers to make a sustainable living from the profession is forcing a lot of great educators out of the field.

This is a pretty hard-hitting truth for a profession that directly contributes to a child’s future success and supports working parents as they reenter the job market and has to change.  

What you can do: Advocate for the field and profession. Early education is a field that is fighting for the recognition it deserves. Because of this, every single voice that highlights the value of teachers matters! Each person that shares their story is one more voice that brings awareness to the reality of preschool teaching. As more voices rally around the cause, it could change the public perception of what early childhood education is all about and contribute to influencing policies surrounding the space for the better.  

These are a few of the misconceptions of being a preschool teacher that we thought were important to talk about! What do you think and do you have your own to add?

5 myths about preschool teachers

Carmen Choi

Carmen is the Marketing Coordinator and Preschool Podcast Manager on the HiMama team. She's been working with childcare business owners and consultants for 3 years. She is passionate making connections that empower the ECE Community through knowledge-sharing to support better outcomes for children, their families, and society!

13 comments

  • Vania Pierre says:

    Okay whoever took the time out to write this article is truly amazing. I truly loved it and agreed with it one-hundred percent. I do have one question though, my question is why is it being enforced more for the preschool teachers to be kept up with what’s going on in the childcare field and not the parents?. I feel if the parents of these preschools “had” to attend the trainings that are given for the teachers the communication between the teachers and parents would be at a healthy standing. As I was reading the article I’ve said to myself everything in this article I’ve witnessed teachers do which are

    1. Asking parents how is the child doing at home away from school.

    2. Sending worksheets home for the child to work on at home to keep their memory sharp on certain materials that was gone over in class.

    3. Teacher requests for a parent, teachers conference.

    I’ve witnessed teachers asking parents how is the child doing at home, and most parents say “ oh he/ she is great I never have any problems out he/ she potty training is going “perfect” but when the child is in the classroom the teacher sees nothing of what the parents/ parent is saying to her 🤔

    And let’s not talk about taking any worksheets home for the child to work on that’s like telling their child to write a 10 page essay for an ENC 1101 class. 😂

    And last but not least I’ve witnessed teachers ask to have a parent, teacher conference just so the teacher can inform the parents/ parent on how their child is doing within the classroom and some parents would set up a date and time with the teacher and the day of the conference there’s a no call, no show. 🤦🏾‍♀️

    My point to this is preschool teachers are doing their parts each and every day. The real question is “ How can the parents do their parts the same exact way the teachers are doing their parts”?. Because a teacher can only do so much at a time when it comes to balancing her classroom management skills, her students and the parents that’s supposed to be involved in her curriculum but chooses not to be because they feel they pay the school enough money each year so they won’t have to be involved. In the article it says “ parents have very little understanding about preschool” and I agree they do however I feel all that can change if there is some time taken out to educate the parents a bit on what’s going on within the preschool they are affiliated with. All In all this was an amazing article.

    • Kelley Giambrone says:

      As a preschool teacher (23+ years), I enjoyed the article, nodding my head as I read. My coworkers and I often feel as if we are looked at as babysitters by some, even though we all have our 4 year degrees in Early Childhood Education.

      To gain more parent participation we all send a monthly calendar and reading log home with the children. The activities cover all domains and various concepts for the month. The activities do not require the parents to purchase anything, but do require them to spend a few minutes of quality time with their children.

      I wish parents had to take at least half the required classes that teachers have to attend every year. If they understood more the importance of things such as socialization and social/emotional knowledge and skills, they may better understand what is required to raise a child positively.

      • Jaculin Flanagan says:

        I’ve been a preschool teacher for ten years. I am lucky to have parents that get how much time i put in on my own spare time. .though I’ll never get rich, I am blessed everyday with great parents.

  • Cari says:

    As a Preschool Teacher I do understand and relate to this article. I’ve had the pleasure to work with bright young talented teachers who like me the children are our number one Passion they make our days rewarding and special. I hope that people realize that Teacher are a special part of the Children that walk into our classrooms including the parents and extended family. It definitely takes a Village to raise a Child !!

  • Lara says:

    As an early childhood teacher and being in the field for over 12 years. We are underpaid and our job is not recognized even it’s the most important and the foundation of this children. God bless every daycares teachers underpaid but we keep our smiles On and we teach our students….

  • Kim says:

    Wow!! Thank you so much for your uplifting words of encouragement. We are so misunderstood, not to mention overlooked. We give childern the fundamental needs that are important for thelr developmental early stagies of their life. Which ppl dont seem to really pay attention too…
    Reading this article made me realize someone really do care, and how much of a impact we really are. It starts with us; we are the one’s that build, produce, intercede and so much more to formulate the foundation.

  • Rachel says:

    I’m a teacher in early headstart
    I love teaching my little ones. I just don’t think people understand what it really takes to get children ready to be in a “school environment”. This article was spot on in addressing some major issues. It really upsets me when I hear someone referring to me as a babysitter. As far as I’m aware I have never sat on a baby.

  • Carolyne omondi says:

    Child care workers are underpaid overlooked and disrespected because majority are women and that’s a fact.

  • Ruksana says:

    I do agree with all the preschool teachers that we are looked upon like a baby sitter. I worked for couple of years as a Montessori teacher and was paid on 10$ an HR in Houston Texas. Me being a single parent could not sustain. Besides most of the day cares will not hire you full time because they donot want to give you health benefits. Where I worked as a Montessori teacher, the school offered me from 8 am to 2pm to by pass any benefits…

    • Debbie says:

      Yes we are underpaid, but for me it is a calling to do this work. I have been a preschool teacher for almost 40 years at the same faith-based center. It has taken all these years to make just over
      $ 13.00 an hour. I also have a degree. I think sometimes parents don’t realize how much of our own money we use in our classrooms, but you make sacrifices to do the job you love. Not sure if we will be able to survive this virus, and remain open.

  • Marcia says:

    Marcia . What an article the public needs to pay attention now that the need for learning care is so great. Thank you for pointing out the discrepancies of this most impirtant profession but so disrespected and underpayed field.
    Believe me any one in this work field more than three years is not there for the money(none) he/she stayes because of the love of the children. We get satisfaction seeing the light bulb go on in their heads.

  • Susan Stockman says:

    Thank you so very much for this article. I have been in early childhood education for over 30 years. Things are slow to change about my field but articles like this one help to keep parents and other aware of the importance of what we do in early childhood education.

  • Hilary says:

    I have a Master’s degree and have been a Montessori preschool teacher since 1972. Although I managed to save enough money to buy a house (3 jobs), no one would write me a mortgage because of my student loan debt, even though I’m on an time-sensitive repayment plan and never earn enough in a month to have to make a payment and the loan will be forgiven in 10 years.. Also, the quality rating programs are totally geared towards play-based curriculums with nothing for purpose-based curriculum like the Montessori method, which has proved itself to successfully promote higher learning skills in all areas than traditional Nursery school curricula.

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