How this Committee is Changing the way Early Childhood Educators are Supported in their Profession

In this episode, we talk with Karina Langevin, RECE and Co-Founder of the Early Childhood Education Committee of Ontario (ECEC-ON). She gives us some insight into the future of child care in Ontario and how the ECEC-ON organization is working to change the field of early childhood and help solve a worldwide problem of providing educators with resources and assistance in the field.

Find out more about the Early Childhood Education Committee of Ontario and how they can support you on their website and connect with them on their Instagram.

Episode Transcript-

Karina LANGEVIN:

And so a lot of the times, educators will turn to nobody. They have nobody to turn to because nobody understands them. So, that’s why we created this community: to help them, to support them.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG: 

Karina, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!

LANGEVIN:

Thank you, Ron. Thank you for having me!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

It’s our pleasure having you, Karina. To our listeners: Karina is a registered early-childhood educator and co-founder of the Early Childhood Education Committee of Ontario [ECEC-ON]. And we’re really excited to talk to her about this initiative, why she started it and why now.

Karina Langevin, let’s start off learning a little bit about you. I understand you’ve been a registered early-childhood educator – or early-childhood educator – for many years before starting up this early-childhood education committee. Tell us a bit about that story.

LANGEVIN:

Thanks, Ron. Yes, I’m a registered early-childhood educator. I have been in the fields for about 20 years. I graduated from Humber College and I wanted to become an early-childhood educator because I wanted to educate the little ones. By the time they go to school, they already know on some of the skills. And I wanted to make sure that I was the one at the forefront in the classroom, teaching toddlers and preschoolers about the skills that they need to take on into adulthood.

So, I got into the field because of that. And I love working with children. My mother had a home daycare growing up, so I saw that. And I just loved how children flourish when you give them the proper tools and you say the proper words of encouragement. A child will grow and learn so much because they’re like sponges.

My education actually took me to become a toddler teacher and a kindergarten teacher in Singapore. I worked there for about two years and then came back and worked in various centers. And then I took my skills into the home. I decided to step away from the centers and wanted to work privately with families and with children because a lot of the time parents want the one-on-one learning.

But when you’re in the classroom of about 10, 15, 20 kids, it’s very, very difficult to give each child the amount of attention that they deserve and that they need in order to grow. So, that’s what I did. And I wanted to continue to learn. I love to learn – I’m a lifelong learner. And I wanted to continue to grow in the fields of early-childhood education.

And so after all those years of working and not getting the proper supports, both for my physical and mental wellness that I partnered up with Sophia [Tate], who is the co-founder as well of the Early Childhood Education Committee of Ontario. And we looked at each other and we said, “Have you ever had something like this happening in your career?” And I said, “Absolutely not.”

There was a lot of things that I have personally dealt with, whether it be depression or anxiety because the amount of work and demands that are placed on an early-childhood educator and not given support is absolutely appalling. And so Sophia and I looked at each other and said, “You know what, because we never had it does not mean that we are not wanting to do something about it for the future educators.”

Because this field is important; it’s important. It is important for society; it’s important for the families and the communities that we serve and absolutely important for the children that we educate because we are educators. But it seems that that gets lost in the midst of things and we’re considered glorified babysitters.

And so society has kind of put us on the back burner and said, “Well, you are not really a teacher. You’re just watching children,” when in fact we’re not. Actually every single day, every single thing that we do in the classroom, a child is learning, is learning a new skill and we’re fostering those skills.

And so that’s why we created this committee, to be able to have an online exclusive community only for early-childhood educators to hop on and just get all of their resources, tools and tips that they can take and individualize into their own lives and in their own careers as educators.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, and certainly it’s something we talk about a lot, of course, on the Preschool Podcast, in terms of how under-recognized the field of early-childhood education is. But when you’re talking through that, I’m kind of picturing the role of an early-childhood educator a little bit more physically in what you have to do every day and the impact.

And I remember talking to somebody on the Podcast, another guest, about when he was really struggling and he kind of hadn’t figured things out yet. He would be sitting in his car just so anxious and not even wanting to go into the classroom because he didn’t know how to manage children and challenging behavior quite yet.

And it’s so real, that image that is very vivid. And you think about the impact of your work. And if you don’t show up to work, there’s little human beings that are counting on you for their health and their safety and their learning and development. And you compare that to a lot of other jobs or careers that are compensated much more. And it’s like, if you don’t show up to work, it’s like an Excel spreadsheet doesn’t get filled out.

LANGEVIN:

Exactly!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Or I heard someone joking at a big bank who was basically saying, “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t show up for weeks and nobody would even notice,” or something like that, “Or they could eliminate my role.” And it’s like, that’s definitely not true for an early-childhood educator.

LANGEVIN:

That cannot happen in our field because you’ll have parents up in arms in the office saying, “Where is this teacher? What is going on?” Because parents also look to us as a beacon of resource to them. Because a lot of the times they think, “Well, this is my first child. I don’t know what to do; I don’t know what is expected of me as a parent to educate my child.”

And so for me as an educator, I say, “Listen, I’m not only educating the children in my classroom, but I’m also being a resource to you as a parent because it’s your first child but it’s my 100th toddler that is coming into my career that I have actually educated.”

So, parents need us and they want us. But the unfortunate thing is that the amount of pressure that gets put on an educator at a childcare center is absolutely devastating. And a lot of times, like you said, when you have that example of the educator in his car not wanting to go in, I have heard stories of people say, “I have had to go on medication because of my anxiety and my depression because of the amount of work that gets put on me.”

As a registered early-childhood educator in a classroom, you have a lot of demands on you. And throw in the mix children and their behavior and the things that they’re going through on top of the demands that are being put on you as well from management and families. It’s a lot for one person.

And to hear somebody saying, “Well, you know what? I have PTS [post-traumatic stress] from working in childcare” and that they would prefer to work at a fast food restaurant because it’s less stress and it’s more money.

And I’m thinking, “How is it that you’re flipping burgers and somebody’s willing to pay you more, but you’re not willing to pay an educator who is establishing and laying foundations that children will take on for years and they get peanuts? They don’t deserve or they’re not worth getting four dollars more per hour because it’s, like, how dare you ask for more?” No, it’s, “How dare you not give them more? Because they deserve more.”

So, it’s absolutely so sad. And I think that was the driving force for us, Ron, to create this committee because enough is enough. That’s what we said: “Enough is enough.” We are going to put out all of this information out there for our educators. And the good thing is, it’s basically like a one-stop shop. You go on our website and you will have all of these articles and everything to do with you as an educator.

And because it’s from us educators – everybody on our team is a registered early-childhood educator. So, they know, they walk the walk and they’re talking the talk. And a lot of people appreciate that because you can’t have somebody say, “Well, this is what you need to do,” or, “You need to do that.” But you’ve never set foot in a classroom and you’ve never dealt with the pressures that we’ve dealt with.

So, a lot of people are drawn to our committee because it’s led by registered early-childhood educators, because we’ve been there. We know the struggle, we feel it and we just want to make a difference in this field.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And tell us a little bit more about the site. So, what kind of resources are there? And if I’m an early-childhood educator, why might I go check out this resource?

LANGEVIN:

So, that’s a really good question because people seem to think, “Well, what do you do?” It’s very straightforward, actually. We just created this website. It’s very user-friendly; it flows easily. And what we did was, when you go through the website, you’ll see different communities. There’s a community of peace, support and solidarity.

And why we did that was, we wanted to make sure that we touched upon every single aspect of concerns that educators will have, whether it be mental health, physical… a lot of educators – myself included – have suffered physical ailments from working with children. Like, I had to go to the hospital many times because I had pulled my back. It was an accident – you can’t really blame anybody. But it’s things like that that really set us back.

And so we wanted to create a community online where you can get those tips. Like, what do you do when you have a backache? Or how can you ease your anxieties? Or as a brand-new educator, these are tips that you can do to become the best educator that you can be.

And it’s just different articles. There’s a couple of videos: the meditation videos, wellness tips videos to help with the burnout, the feeling of burnout because that’s really huge. That’s plaguing our educators right now. Ever since the pandemic hit, the burnout level has gone through the roof for our educators.

So, not only do we have those articles and that information, but we also have principles that you can use in your classroom, different types of information that you can use as a teacher in your classroom. And you can individualize it to meet the needs of your children in the classroom.

But we also created a perks program. A lot of the times our educators they don’t get anything for working in the field. Unlike when you work on a school board, you get discounts to this place and that place and whatnot. But our ECE’s [early-childhood educators] don’t have that.

I mean, from my personal experience working in private centers, we never had, “Here’s a free coffee,” or, “Here’s something just for being an early-childhood educator.” Because we didn’t have that, we created the perks program. And we partnered with Perkopolis – I’m not sure, Ron, if you know about Perkopolis. They’re really big in North America – Canada and the United States, as well. And they just offer discounts to top brands, everything that you can think of when you go to the mall. All those stores that you see at a mall, that’s what you get a discount to through Perkopolis.

And so we wanted to offer that to our educators. But we offer that in the form of a membership so that we can keep it a tight-knit community and keep it exclusive. Because a lot of times our educators feel more comfortable speaking one-on-one or just speaking with people that that know what they’re struggling with and they understand it.

And so we decided to do that and that’s who we are. And we’re here to support our educators; we’re available. You send us an email and somebody will get back to you. And we’ve had many, many people call us and reach out and say, “Hey, listen, I’ve turned to this company and so-and-so and nobody’s returned my call. You guys were the only ones that picked up.” And we were able to help them with their needs.

They just need direction. Some people just need directions and they don’t know who to turn to. Well, you can turn to us because we know what the struggle is; we know what you’re going through and we’re here to help. And that’s the bottom line, is we thank the early-childhood educators for the roles that they play in shaping the young minds of tomorrow.

But we’re also here for you as an individual to say, “Hey, you want to talk to somebody, you want to vent, you want to release that anxiety, that anger that you have? Reach out to us because we will understand. Don’t dump all that emotion when you get home. And sometimes your family doesn’t understand what you’re going through because they think, “Well, you’re just watching kids, how can it be so stressful?”

And so a lot of the times the educators will turn to nobody. They have nobody to turn to because nobody understands them. So, that’s why we created this community, to help them, to support them.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool, that’s awesome. And what would you say is your ultimate objective with this, if you had to try to sum it up?

LANGEVIN:

The objective of our committee is to reach out to every single early-childhood educator, not only in Canada, not only in the United States or North America but around the world. I have worked in Singapore. I met many, many educators from different parts of the world and we are all struggling. We all understand, we all have one common goal, and that’s to educate children in our classroom. But they don’t have the support.

And that’s what we’re wanting to do. We want that anybody can come. The World Wide Web, that’s why they call it the “World Wide Web” because it reaches everybody. And we want to do that. We want to make sure that… and we have been doing that. When we launched last June, our website reached the UK, South Africa, Asia, Australia, United States and across Canada as well.

Because people were curious to know, “Hey, what is this? This has never happened before. We’ve never had something like this before.” And so that curiosity led them to us because we are like that breath of fresh air of, “Hey, this is really cool, this is really neat. You guys are actually supporting us.” Yes, we are. And we’re very happy to do that.

So, we want to make sure that we reach any and every educator that wants to come on board and say, “Hey, you know what? I need help. I need somebody to talk to you. You guys have been through it all. What can you do to help me?” And we will figure it out together.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Awesome. And what is the website address?

LANGEVIN:

www.ECEC-ON.ca.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Cool, so that’s www.ECEC-ON.ca, the Early Childhood Education Committee of Ontario. It sounds like a great resource. And I love how you took action and moved forward with trying to help solve a problem that you are facing and you are feeling and that some of your friends and colleagues and peers are also facing, to help each other out and approach it like a community. So, I really love that. And we’re starting off a new year, 2021. Any words of optimism for our listeners?

LANGEVIN:

It may be tough now but it’s going to get better. You need to reach out to us if you want some help. Early-childhood educators, hey, you guys are superstars. You are our superheroes. We call them superheroes. An early-childhood educator is a super power and they are superheroes. And we want to make sure that we celebrate them.

And also on our website, Ron, just to point out, we recognize and we celebrate our educators. We have the ECE Wall of Fame where we celebrate them. We celebrate their accomplishments; we celebrate everything that they do, whether they’ve been in the classroom and they’ve only been in the classroom.

Let’s say they’ve been in a preschool classroom for five years. Hey, we’re going to celebrate you because that’s five years you’ve been doing with all these kids and these parents and all of the stressors that come with it.

2020 for us was going to be the year that we were going to burst out on the scene and make this huge change. And then COVID-19 hit and we kind of were stifled in what we wanted to do. This is only the beginning for the Early Childhood Education Committee. We want to do so much more. We have ECE retreat that we wanted to do because we wanted to give our educators something fun to do. I’ve never had anything like that. I mean, we’ve attended conferences and workshops and things like that but we wanted to do something fun.

So, we created the ECEC-ON ECE retreats. So, we are hoping that 2021 will be the year that we can all come together and celebrate the amount of work that we have all done together. It is a big community of educators, not only in Ontario and across Canada but around the world.

We are a huge community of early-childhood educators. But we just need that respect. And if you want that respect, you’ve got to fight for that. And how do we fight for that? By doing our best as a professional. We act professionals, we talk professionally and people will start to see, “Hey, you know what? You guys aren’t just glorified babysitters. You know what you’re talking about.”

Because we do. We are educated. We’ve got degrees and diplomas and we’ve done so many studies and things like that. So, we deserve the best. And our early-childhood educators are the superheroes, are the backbone that lay that foundation for our children and future generations. So, I applaud every single educator out there for what they do.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Absolutely. And we really appreciate your contribution with creating the Early Childhood Education Committee, supporting educators with mental, physical wellness, burnout, professional development, all the things we know are challenging for educators. Very much appreciated. And Karina, thank you so much for joining us on the Preschool Podcast today!

LANGEVIN:

Thank you so much for having me, Ron, and for allowing me to share our mission and our initiative for our educators. Thank you very much!

Kiah Price

Kiah Price is a Community Ambassador at HiMama. Prior to HiMama she was an Early Childhood Educator in a preschool classroom in Toronto. She is the Jill of all trades at HiMama from dipping her toes in Sales, Customer Success, Operations, and Marketing! She enjoys sweating through spin classes, hot yoga, and biking along the waterfront trails. She loves traveling and trying new foods and wines across the globe- 29 countries and counting!

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