Its All About Relationships
Thats the title and theme of the First Conference of the Southwest District of the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children and not only has it been sold out, but the conference organizers had to double the number of spaces for attendees due to unbelievable interest! This says so many wonderful things about our community and theres no better time to highlight those than this month, in conjunction with this exciting event. The conference is already a success, and it wont even take place until Saturday, Oct. 22!
I think its safe to say that most of us spend time every day trying to understand and, hopefully, improve the relationships we have with the important people in our lives our family members, our friends, and those with whom we work. Even our relationships with people who arent part of our daily lives affect us, sometimes happily and other times, less so. How many times have you changed to a different doctor, dentist, vet, etc., because you were seeking a better relationship? How many times have you told a professional how much you appreciate him or her? How many times have you been able to give less-than-positive feedback to someone in a way that preserved the relationship? Relationships take energy, courage, open communication, commitment, and an investment of time; the rewards are life-changing.
In the preschool years, the relationships that parents have with their childrens early childhood care providers are significant at many levels. Research shows that young children do better when there is a good partnership between the provider and the parent, when they both work together to help young children develop and grow. We expect a great deal of these early childhood professionals. As a Montelores Early Childhood Council member wrote in a previous column, Child care is no longer considered babysitting. As a matter of fact, in many countries its called educare to stress the importance of providing both specialized teaching to encourage development, as well as providing away-from-home care for young children.
Just as parenting is hard work, teaching and caring for the young children of others is also hard work many people are unaware of all that is required. Early childhood professionals are often unsung heroes. They have specialized training in many areas of development; they continue to take courses, attend conferences, achieve college degrees, and participate in learning events/activities as part of their professional development. Usually, they do this on their own time and at their own expense, including finding evening or weekend childcare for their own children.
Yet, to paraphrase the words of many early childhood professionals, they entered this profession, not to get rich, but because they believe in the importance of the early learning years and because they love young children. They make less than highway flaggers, truck drivers, and many other jobs that require much less education and skill. They say they get paid in smiles, hugs, and appreciation from families. In addition, many early childhood caregivers are parents of children themselves, so after a day of providing educare to young children in groups, they go home to their own children.
Which brings us back to the theme of the conference. My guess is that many of the early childhood professionals serving the young children in our communities will be attending this conference, giving up a Saturday with their families so that they can become better providers to our children and families. The keynote speaker will encourage them to find the hidden gem in each child. They will attend sessions on social-emotional development, play, social interaction, language, health and safety, and yes, developing successful partnerships with the parents and families of the young children they serve.
Although we have appreciation days and give awards to early childhood professionals, in order to establish and maintain good partnerships with those who care for our youngest, we need to tell them, often, how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication. Let them know how reassuring it is to know that you can go off to work each day and trust that your children are in good hands (and hearts). Because there are always areas of disagreement, or times when you will have to discuss issues that might seem negative, it is all the more important to make sure that you have first built a supportive, positive foundation. From research we know that it takes about nine positive remarks, or compliments, to soften the effect of one critical remark so start today! Voltaire said, Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.
Mary Dodd is a semi-retired early childhood professional, special educator, and educator who moved to Cortez in late 2009. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.