We are in a critical stage of development as Early Childhood Teachers and Professionals. A stage where we question the joy, sacrifice, and commitment to the career choice, passion, or love of teaching. Yes, I said it—and the alarming rate of teachers leaving the field proves it. Teachers, specifically preschool teachers, and directors are struggling with what came easy to us and what we knew without a shadow of a doubt…which is, “I am an educator, and I am not in this field for the money, or the fame. Yet I am here because I am passionate about the first five years of development, I am passionate about a child’s inquisitive mind and nurturing a child from birth through grade school.” Post-pandemic we ask ourselves very important questions, and because we as teaching professionals are dedicated to our craft, we ask these questions in private…sometimes even just to ourselves.
Why am I here? What matters more? Intrinsic motivation or external incentives? Can I live a comfortable life with my current salary? Am I going to make it home today safely to my family? Will I be banned from teaching the concepts and reading the books I’ve read and taught for years…books that I grew up reading and loving over critical race theories? Will the new standards of health and safety prohibit the organic play we engage our youngest learners in? What will the mental state of our families be in the next 3-5 years? Where will I be in the next 3-5 years?
All of these questions are normal to have…all the fear is normal to feel. The worry, the doubt, the hesitation to renew your license, your CDA, to finish your degree…the thoughts of completely changing your career after 20,30, even 40 years in the field…. yeah, it’s normal. Wanting to retire earlier than you desired or ever dreamed of…it’s all normal! Posting your resume, applying to jobs up north, or down south, hoping that a change in scenery will do the trick! You’re not alone.
Take a deep breath and know as passionate as each of you are reading this…you are not alone in your feelings. We have put the needs of the children, the families, and our communities above our own, and it begins to feel uncomfortable when we question our needs as professionals. We question it so much that we don’t ever talk about it out loud. I wanted to provide a space where it’s safe to discuss our doubts about continuing in the field of education openly, despite how much we love it. I want you to know, we at the council we see you…we hear you…we understand your daily sacrifice. I want to thank you for sticking it out, I want to thank you for counting your gratifying moments in the field twice every time something scary pops up in the news. I want to thank you for returning to the field if you left seeking something new…thank you for coming back to the true purpose and passion in life! We’ve missed you! I want to thank you for dismissing the feelings of quitting and showing up as your best self yet in the classrooms and schools every day. I am here with you…entering my 20th year in education and my 16th year directing schools…I am still here for the children and families, I still show up every day for my community, and my gratitude journal continues to remind me why I chose this career, this degree, this important work. Although the times have gotten hard, it was never meant to be easy…so push through, my educators.
I invite you to start an education gratitude journal. It can be on your phone, a physical representation at home or in your classroom. Share pictures with us here at the council of all the ways you count your gratifying moments of being an educator and how you stay committed to the important work of Early Childhood Education. We need you—the children need you—our communities thrive off of your hard work and the generations to come will thank you for your dedication to our future.