Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MYTHBUSTERS: Early Childhood Education Is Easy

Every education major has heard it at some point: the education-is-the-easiest-degree-on-campus slogan. The its-the-easy-way-out-of-a-career-and-get-summers-off accusation. Every education major also knows these statements to be false, but startled by recent events, it has come to my attention that even some other education majors make fun of early childhood majors, claiming that our degree is too easy.

I was enraged. 

I'm sorry that we have more fun than students in other majors. I'm sorry that we don't believe in tests (because they don't prove much, if anything), and that we get to color and craft and act like four year olds while others are presenting a lesson. I'm also sorry that we train children in academics while they're learning to hold a spoon. I'm sorry that elementary educators teach reading and writing while early childhood educators teach children to walk, speak, resolve conflicts, read, write, and count all at the same time. I'm sorry that we dodge flying toys and change messy diapers amidst it all. 

I'm sorry that I'm about to prove your misconceptions wrong. 

I'm not saying other programs are easy, because I know they aren't. But I'm not going to say they're any more difficult than early childhood, because I firmly believe it could be the other way around. 

There are thousands of misconceptions about early childhood educators from education majors and non-education majors alike, but there are five that have begun to stand out before I've even completed my degree. Here are my thoughts on all of them. 

Your degree program is too easy.
Ha!! False. Yes, we color. Yes, we sing. We also evaluate for fine motor skills, gross motor development, social skills, conflict resolution, cognitive processing, and speech development. Oh, and then we teach them how to read and write. 

Say we're teaching our students how to count. After all, that's an easy lesson for our easy degree. Our kids are young. When we design lesson plans, our goal is to keep our wild kiddos focused, engaged, and willing to learn. Before we even design a lesson, we have informally assessed everything each student already knows, needs to know, and still struggles with from the last lesson. We look into each child's home life, determining how their family is meeting the basic needs of child development, and examining how it affects their life in the classroom. We research and learn about each student's culture so that we can understand why they might say, do, or react the way they do in the classroom. Then we differentiate the counting lesson accordingly to cater every student's need. 

If the student still isn't succeeding, we examine further. Do they need a reading specialist? What about a speech therapist? Are they acting out because of a traumatic situation at home, or are they actually gifted and just bored out of their mind? Do they really belong in that remedial group or do they need medication to help them focus so they can learn? Or do you need to fill out the paperwork and attend the meetings for a Special Education referral? Call it a diagnosis, if you will. We are way more than mere Crayola Queens. If I turned you loose in a classroom tomorrow and told you to teach my kids their sight words, would you know enough about them to succeed? Do you know enough about classroom management to keep them all engaged? Do you even know what a sight word is? 

You don't have extensive training in reading, math, or curriculum development. 
False. We have more. 

At Missouri State, we take two years of general education courses to be followed by a total of four reading classes (three of which have field experience), two full math methods courses, social students courses related to teaching content and necessary social skills, and numerous science courses focusing on experiential learning and experimentation. We also take child development courses, nutrition, arts integration, multi-cultural diversity, family involvement, and an intro course in speech pathology so we are prepared with the tools to help all our students when they are unable to pinpoint why they are struggling with reading, writing, or math. 

You're just babysitters. 
Um...false. We're teachers. Please reread the categories above. 

There are too many of you.
Again, false. It is overwhelming how false that is. Are you aware that there are over 200 elementary education students each year at Missouri State (and even more in the complete education program), when only a handful of students are admitted (yes, admitted, meaning we took a test, filled out an application, wrote an essay, etc.) to the early childhood education program? Missouri State University's early childhood undergraduate program is highly selective, and significantly smaller than any other education program at the university. I did a little research and also found that there are way more elementary graduates than there are jobs available in the immediate area, whereas the early childhood education program has a 90% placement rate after graduation. 

Most early childhood programs aren't even offered as an undergraduate degree because the plan is so involved. Early childhood majors are half a child development major and half an elementary education major; just a little less than a double major, which is why our degree program doesn't require a minor or an emphasis. Most universities don't even offer an early childhood program until graduate school. 

You don't take care of behavior issues quickly. 
True! One that I agree with! We don't take care of behavior issues quickly, but we take care of them permanently. When behavior issues arise, many educators are trained to examine the behavior itself, but early childhood educators value development over education. Therefore, we look at what's causing the behavior rather than the behavior itself. If we can fix the cause of the behavior, the behavior will fix itself. For example, if a child bites or hits another child, most teachers would instruct them to say sorry, write a note to the parent, and move on with the day. An early childhood educator would lead the young student in the whole cognitive process, starting with "look at the tears on his face," and "how much do you think that hurt him?" This would be followed by "what are your ideas to fix this problem?" It sounds stupid and ineffective, but it is so much more than telling the student to "use their words." It is the most basic form of educating students to take care of their own problems and disputes without requesting the interference of authority. After the conflict resolution process has been completed, an early childhood educator would then consider the child's situation individually, socially, and economically, gathering information and resources to target and resolve the root of the issue. 

Suddenly, our job has become rather complicated, has it not? 

This post was somewhat therapeutic, as I am sick and tired of being told my degree is stupid and easy. But this post is more than that. It's not a complaint about being under-appreciated. It's alerting those who care enough to listen about how absolutely offensive and ridiculous it is to diminish the intelligence and worth of a person who will be teaching your future children everything they need to know. You might think our job is easy now, but someday, we'll be loving and educating your little prince or princess, and suddenly, it will become one of the most important jobs in the world. 

So teach on, Crayola Queens. You are molding our future generation. 
Got your own myth about educators? I'd love to prove it wrong! Drop it in the comments or shoot me an email to have it featured. 

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