Last month I had the pleasure of attending the Bankstreet Infancy Institute with four of my colleagues. For those of you who may not know, Bankstreet College of Education is one of the premiere graduate schools for progressive early education in the United States and is located in NYC. It is rare as an Infant/Toddler teacher to attend a professional development workshop that can be applied to the age that I work with, because most people look at “Early Childhood Education” as pertaining to children ages 3-5. The reality is that this isn’t even half true- early childhood education pertains to children ages Birth through 8. Furthermore, 90% of the brain is already developed by age 4! So why are our infants and toddlers constantly getting the short end of the education stick?!
At Alphabet, I am proud to say that infants and toddlers as well as their teachers are treated with the respect and professionalism that they deserve. But unfortunately that is not the reality in most early learning centers. On average, a birth to three teacher with her Bachelor’s degree makes $4.20/hour lower than her B.A. holding preschool through kindergarten counterparts. This is not only unfair but it is incredibly unfortunate. This statistic illustrates the fact that so few people value the work that we do. Being at Bankstreet surrounded by hundreds of people who share my work, passion, and love for our smallest children not only inspired me, but it empowered me.
We had the pleasure to sit in on a lecture from Tamar Jacobson, the head of the Early Childhood Education department at Rider University. She was a very humorous and enthusiastic speaker with experience working with children in Zimbabwe, Israel, and the U.S. She spoke specifically about a child’s “emotional memory” and how anything that happens from Birth to age 5 is inerasable, even if a child doesn’t remember specifics. She emphasized that children are only humane because someone was humane to them, and that as a whole our culture is starved for relationships.
As we know, Infant/Toddler teaching is entirely relationship-based because without that foundation of trust, children are capable of learning very little. Tamar expressed that discipline should simply be viewed as “embracing children with boundaries” and encouraged us to look at the root of the word, “disciple”, to examine it’s true meaning. She gave some very basic rules to follow when it comes to disciplining children which will in turn help preserve our relationships with them.
- Remember: How would I want to be treated if I were in my own classroom?
- Only rule: I want everyone to be safe in my classroom.
- Follow through immediately, firmly, and clearly with relevant consequences.
- Pick your battles.
All of these suggestions validated what I practice in my own classroom and were in line with my undergraduate education. But they also got me thinking: Here at Alphabet, we only serve a very small population of infants and toddlers, and the sad truth is that in the United States, few high quality programs exist. When you combine the rapid brain growth as well as the fact that emotional memory is inerasable, our society is doing our youngest citizens a huge disservice. We need to stop looking at our infant/toddler teachers as glorified babysitters (yes, I have been called this and no, I have never intentionally sat on a baby) and start looking at us as the professionals we really are. So with that I hereby announce what we were told our new job title should be: Infant/Toddler Neuro-Architect!
– Ms. Cora