Be Sure to Thank a Teacher
This week May 4-8, is Teacher Appreciation Week culminating on Friday when Childcare Worker Appreciation Day is celebrated. We must give a HUGE shout-out to all of the devoted men and women around the country and great state of Connecticut who are devoted to the betterment of children and families. Teachers are so important for all ages and stages of a child’s development, especially now, with COVID-19. As teachers are adapting their lesson plans and delivery methods to a virtual platform, they are also acting as touchstones to their students, missing them all the while.
Some early childhood teachers are putting their lives on the line by teaching and caring for the children of medical professionals and other front-line workers. They are adapting to social-distancing procedures and protocols with daily contact with students, parents, and staff. This is certainly, very stressful. They still must create lesson plans, modify behavior plans, differentiate teaching techniques, perform individual students assessments, and satisfy professional development requirements, all while managing and coping with their own fears of spreading or catching the Coronavirus in concert with easing the fears of their students as well as their families.
Sadly, most early childhood teachers have been laid off. In Connecticut approximately half of childcare centers are closed. This is creating unbelievable stress and heartache to the owners who have had to lay off teachers and inform parents that they are unable to care for and teach their children. They are feeling frustrated and fearful of the time when they do have to reopen. Will they have the supplies they need to stay COVID-safe? Will teachers want to return to work?
COVID-19 has shined a light onto all of the inequities in our society, most significantly the childcare industry. There is a disconnect between the value of early childhood educators and the compensation they receive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay of preschool teachers is $13.52 an hour, which is around $28,100 a year. These are educated teaching professionals who are charged with teaching and caring for our society’s most valuable asset—our children, and yet many of them are making more money on unemployment than they are teaching. How is this just? How is this sustainable? It is not.
Parents and childcare professionals need to stand together and demand that the current early childhood system, that is clearly designed to set some children up for a lifetime of preventable hardships, gets a redesign. What would that look like? Well, the evidence has been researched and cited for decades now: a child who receives a quality preschool education has better life-long outcome. It pays off economically too, when we invest in early education we are increasing the number of productive citizens who are able to grow and contribute to society in a positive way. We need to insist that preschool gets integrated into our public education system; ultimately it is for the common good and economic growth of our society.
We need to increase spending across the board to community programs, like those that the Connecticut Children’s Collective is comprised of, that offer parenting education programs, playgroups, and other programs that provide family supports. We need to integrate the business sector into the early childhood landscape by teaching its leaders that employee benefits like flexible hours, paid maternity leave, and onsite childcare facilities will increase productivity and employee loyalty. We need to enact laws that provide paid, three month (at least) maternity leave for both mothers and fathers. And finally, we need to advocate for higher salaries for early childhood professionals.
All early childhood teachers are required to hold a degree in early childhood or a closely related field. They are held to licensing and compliance rules, health and safety standards, and a myriad of other requirements, procedures, and protocol…and yet, they are only compensated the small amount that they are. Please advocate, as best you can, for the over-haul of our country and state’s early childhood education field. You can start by thanking teachers—all teachers, for the incredible love for children they hold in their heart. Right now, we are realizing just how precious our teachers are—let’s remember that when we return to “normal.”