Let me tell you, childcare workers and preschool teachers are saints. They are responsible for the education, as well as the physical, emotional and social well being of up to a dozen or more tiny humans for nine hours a day. They’re always learning and attending extra classes at night or on the weekend because they want to provide the best in early childhood education. They do all of this with warm hearts and smiling faces, no matter how exhausted they are. They’ve got so much on their plates, they often feel like they’re neglecting their own families. They can barely pay the bills with their main job, yet they stick around for the kids.
Research shows ages 0-5 are crucial for brain development and learning opportunities that impact success throughout life. You’d think that should be convincing enough for society to appreciate and pay those in charge of our kids’ most valuable years what they deserve… Well, think twice. Our most important teachers are also the least paid and the most overworked!
Here’s why early childhood educators deserve our admiration every day of the year.
1. They’re key to your child’s future.
Research shows what happens to us during the first five years plays a critical role in our success throughout life. A quality and stable early childhood education leads to larger vocabularies, stronger academic, social and emotional skills, higher rates of graduating and going to college and larger salaries as adults. It is also linked to lower rates of teen pregnancy, drug use, and homelessness. That’s an extremely important job!
2. They are professional toddler wranglers.
I’ve seen a one-year-old who can barely stand on their own scale a tall bookshelf in seconds. Toddlers are daredevils determined to explore the world and depend on adults to keep them alive. They lack the language to tell you what they want so they scream and throw themselves on the floor because you can’t read their minds. They bite – each other and their lovely teachers. Diapering them takes huge physical exertion and they don’t always nap. Imagine how tired you are caring for your toddler on the weekends. Now imagine spending a whole day caring for many toddlers.
3. They’re with your kids more awake hours than you.
By the time you get off work and pick up your precious little angels, you likely only have two or three hours of awake time before they go to bed. Most of their active hours are spent with their teacher. Do your part to help her be as relaxed and happy as possible so she can pass those good vibes on to your child. Keep in mind her own family is getting the scraps she has left at the end of the day. She’s missing out on time with her own kids to care for yours.
4. They are often underpaid and undervalued.
Preschool teachers and childcare workers work just a hard as public school teachers – usually for a fraction of the pay, fewer benefits and little paid time off. Yet they still have piles of paperwork, reports, lesson plans, project preparation, meetings and training to jam into their days, all while educating and caring for your children. Plus, they usually have to clean their own classrooms at the end of the day.
5. They don’t all get breaks.
Childcare centers are open year-round. They don’t close for two weeks for winter break. They don’t get a spring break. They definitely don’t have summers off. In fact, they usually have even more children to care for during these times because many centers offer day camps for elementary students when school is out of session.
6. They deal with bodily fluids of people unrelated to them…all day, every day.
Do you know those crazy diaper blowouts that result in poop all the way up the back? The ones that take a whole package of wipes and cause you to gag and question your decision to become a parent? Imagine dealing with that multiple times a day with kids that aren’t even yours. Then add in vomit, dozens of snotty noses and gallons of pee. Isn’t this enough reason to shower them with praise, appreciation, flowers, snacks and gift cards on a daily basis?
So what can you do? Write a thank you letter. Include a gift card to a grocery store, gas station or coffee shop if you can swing it. Volunteer in the classroom. (Ask if there are tasks you can do from home if you aren’t available during the day.) Brag about your child’s teacher to the center direction. Take time to acknowledge the teachers at drop off and pick up. Even taking a minute to smile, make eye contact and genuinely say, “Thank you for everything you do” goes a long way in making someone feel valued.
Childcare workers, we see you. We appreciate you. Thank you.