What are the challenges facing Early Childhood Teachers?

Misalignment between expectations and resources in early childhood sector creates challenges for Early Childhood Teachers.

Update on January 26, 2015

If you are a scholar, researcher, leader or expert in Early Childhood Education and you agree with me that there is a misalignment between expectations on Early Childhood Educators and the resources provided to them to meet these expectations you can join me in taking action.

There is an opportunity for you to join with other scholars in endorsing a letter regarding the science behind investments in early childhood. The letter was developed by Hiro Yoshikawa, Deborah Phillips, Marty Zaslow, Christina Weiland among others. It is largely based on a longer paper by the Society for Research in Child Development that is referenced by the letter. The goal is to explain to policy makers and the public the broad agreement within the scientific community about the value of investments in the sector.

Click on this link to read and sign the letter

I have no background in early childhood education, either academically or professionally. However, as the CEO of a technology company that works in the early childhood sector it’s critical that I stay in tune with the latest trends and conversations that are happening. I am also becoming increasingly passionate about the topic, so enjoy taking part in important debates.

To improve my understanding of early education I try to do two things regularly. Firstly, I like to speak with stakeholders in the sector on a one-on-one basis. This includes stakeholders that are involved in the day-to-day operations of child care and early learning programs, like teachers and directors, as well as other stakeholders such as academic experts, early childhood consultants, and leaders of professional development and support organizations.

The second educational endeavour I strive for is reviewing research papers and reports on a regular basis. I feel that this complements the views of people in the field, as well as helps me to understand macro trends in the sector and the various perspectives of influential leaders and experts.

The latest research paper that I had the pleasure of reading was titled A Day in the Life of an Early Childhood Teacher: Identifying the Confronting Issues and Challenges That Arise. The paper is authored by Sarah Ohi of Deakin University in Melbourne and is based on interviews with Early Childhood Teachers in Australia. The paper addresses what the job of an Early Childhood Teacher entails in the context of required “up-skilling” in the sector to meet increasingly demanding job requirements.

Here’s my primary takeaway from reading the paper: There is a misalignment between expectations on Early Childhood Educators and the resources provided to them to meet these expectations.

Educators have many responsibilities that they are held accountable for, many of which are brought to light in this paper. For example, the interviewed teachers identified several roles that they had to take on in their jobs. Specifically, they felt that they had to take on the role of educator, pastoral care provider, communicator, leader, advocate and administrator.

With all of these roles that an ECE must fulfil, there were several challenges identified. The specific themes were insufficient time, lack of resources and partnerships with parents. However, I believe that when dissected, these challenges can be boiled down to one central issue – lack of resources. Resources can come in various forms, but almost all stem from funding at the most fundamental level. Additional funding can be put towards hiring educators, training and professional development for existing educators, and implementing supporting technology, for example. These resources in turn can mitigate the other two challenges; a lack of time and building successful partnerships with parents.

I think the HiMama child care app for preschools and early learning programs is a case in point of a resource that alleviates the challenges of insufficient time and building partnerships with parents. A comment from one of the teachers, for example was that, “Just keeping up with the paperwork and keeping up with observations and programming is a challenge”.

The HiMama app makes documentation of child observations more efficient and replaces daily daycare sheets, reports, forms and templates with automated digital daily child care reports. This time saved in documentation and paperwork is then reclaimed for the educator. Also, because the technology supports more frequent and transparent communications with parents, it empowers the educator to build stronger relationships with parents with no additional time commitment required.

I make a similar overarching conclusion in a previous blog post about how to deal with employee retention in early education. That is, more funding will provide Early Childhood Educators with the resources needed to successfully meet the increasing requirements and responsibilities of their role, empowering them to solve their challenges.

Since starting HiMama I have gained a lot of respect for Early Childhood Educators. They do indeed have demanding jobs and take on a variety of roles that go far beyond the daily care of children in their programs. If we expect Early Childhood Educators to meet the demands placed on them, then governments and administrators must increase available resources to the sector in alignment with these increasing expectations.

download the complete guide to hiring & retaining early childhood educators ebook

Ron Spreeuwenberg

Ron is the Co-Founder & CEO of HiMama, where he leads all aspects of a social purpose business that helps early childhood educators improve learning outcomes for children.

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