I have the most amazing job right now. One of the most amazing aspects of the job is that I get to be “the voice of early childhood education”.
Even before working for them, as a preschool teacher my current employer’s tagline always caught my eye – or ear: “The voice of early childhood education.” Love it.
On a nearly daily basis for over twenty-five years I was engaging in moving the early childhood education forward. I didn’t think of it like that. Often, I just thought of it as how I could help in someone’s life in some small way. And I loved it.
Walking into pre-k classrooms day in and day out. Setting up the classroom and materials that would be engaging and safe for a preschooler. Bringing home construction paper to cut-out and prepare activities for upcoming lessons. Fielding phone calls from parents at home while my kids were waiting for me to sit down at the dinner table.
“The voice of early childhood education.” What an honor. And what a responsibility. Whether employed or not, I am not THEE voice. I am A voice. A voice. And each one needs to speak up.
In the past fifteen years brain research has just completely ballooned! We did not know twenty years ago what we know now about the first five years and the brain. It has produced the evidence needed to demonstrate just how critical early childhood education is. 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 5.
Yet, ironically, 90% of education dollars are spent after the age of 5 years. That’s a lot of missed opportunity. Or a lot of penny-pinching to make sure young learners get the high quality early childhood education they need.
Today I had the wonderful honor of being an invited guest speaker to a local book study group. I was introduced as a “very important person in the early learning community.” Yikes. There is some pressure.
While I certainly thanked the group for the flattery, I had to point out I am no more important to moving the mission of high quality early learning for all children forward than anyone else in the room. I just have a certain background knowledge and skill set. Each one of our voices and experiences are vitally important to be heard for early learning across the state and spectrums of businesses. It is THAT important.
The group was discussing the new book, “A Path Appears,” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The authors show through a series of vignettes how individuals across the globe are making a positive contribution to reduce the opportunity gap. A common theme throughout their study of global struggles is the impact that high quality early learning can have.
The landscape of early childhood education is changing. I see this just in who is sitting at the table discussing the issue – wherever you go. I did mental back flips earlier this week when a local school district’s superintendent elected to sit at the “prek table” for discussion instead of a K-12 focused group. How awesome is that!
While many may argue that in Pennsylvania‘s current fiscal struggles, there is not enough money for K-12 so we cannot begin to consider pre-k. However, high quality early learning programs have a direct correlation in reducing school districts special education burden. Smart school administrators (like the superintendent at the meeting last week) recognize that investing in early learning is a game-changer. The public schools cannot carry the burden of delivering high quality pre-k across the board. They can, however, find creative and collaborative solutions. New York City delivers universal pre-k through a public-private partnership. By connecting with the local child care centers and preschools, the school district can share what the students in pre-k will need to be ready to master for Kindergarten. Sharing information and resources collaboratively, the local children will be ready to learn.
In New York City, the new mayor ran on a platform for early childhood education. In addition to winning the seat, he delivered seats for universal pre-k across a city whose education system serves more children than many states do. We all need to share our gifts to share the benefits a community sees both in the short and long terms from high quality early childhood education. With figures ranging from $4 – $17 dollars in return for every dollar invested in high quality early learning locally, this is a social impact that is second to none in its ROI.
We each need to be a voice for early childhood education – where ever we are. Whatever we do.
What’s your job? How can you use your voice for early childhood education?