Eight Steps to Advance Your Professional Development in Early Childhood Education
The field of early childhood education has received significant public attention as the calls for universal pre-K and high-quality child care become prevalent. As our profession comes under the spotlight, politicians, researchers, advocates from outside the profession, and families are examining the field from every angle.
They are asking: Who makes up the field? What are their qualifications? What are their values? Do early childhood organizations have clear missions and visions for the future of our children? The expectations placed on early childhood professionals are growing with the demand for improved standards in child care. With this in mind, it is important for early childhood educators to demonstrate their unique skills and communicate their passions.
Below are eight ways each of us can show we are professionals ready to meet the challenges of our ever-changing field.
Develop a professional portfolio. As Cheryl Priest, an associate professor for the human development and family studies program at Central Michigan University, reminds us, “We often do so much on a daily basis for children and families that we forget that we too need encouragement and support.” Having a portfolio in hand allows you to see how you have grown and changed as a professional. It is physical evidence of your success.
Write a statement of teaching philosophy. Carla Goble, an early childhood education and child development consultant, and Diane Horm, Founding Director of the ECEI and George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, explain that developing a statement of philosophy can be empowering because it helps you clarify your values and practice. Reminding yourself of why you chose early childhood education as a profession and what your goals are for the children in your classroom can reinvigorate your practice.
Donate to or join a professional network, like the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Zero to Three, or the Children’s Defense Fund, that supports your teaching interests. These organizations are responsible for advocating for change in early childhood education and child care, and they support best practices.
Share what you learned in a training by creating your own workshop. Staff meetings are the perfect time to discuss professional development experiences. Let your colleagues know about what you learned. Try a technique together and talk about how it unfolded for the children, the ways it worked, and how to make it better.
Advocate for improvements in early childhood education by writing to your representatives. Do you believe in universal pre-K? Would you like to limit standardized testing? Are you passionate about programs that support children’s nutrition and seek to end childhood obesity? Write letters to your state and local representatives and voice your concerns. Be clear about the action you would like to see taken.
Host a discussion group on a pressing early childhood education subject. Have a disappointed parent? Are you curious about ways to improve instruction for English language learners or want to know more about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education? Collect articles about the topic and invite colleagues to meet at a coffee shop to read, discuss, and problem solve.
Submit a grant application or foundation proposal to fund a new program or needed equipment at your school. It’s no secret that many early child care communities lack the necessary funding to update equipment and materials as often as they would like. Inviting others to invest in your program has the potential to cultivate lifelong community partnerships.
Educate families. Information is everything. When parents and guardians understand the connection between play and learning, what we mean when say executive functioning, and what research and philosophies guide our practices, they become partners in our effort to provide high- quality care for their children.
Learn more about NAEYC’s efforts to elevate the early childhood education profession by visiting NAEYC.org/our-work/initiatives/profession.
Interested in advancing your career in other ways? Visit NAEYC’s Advance Your Career page.
Interested in pursuing a degree? Take a look at NAEYC's Higher Ed page.
Teresa Narey is a prekindergarten teacher at Beth Shalom Early Learning Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a student in Champlain College’s low-residency graduate program in early childhood education.