New Year’s typically brings fireworks, but not just the celebratory variety that light up the night sky.
Often, there are sparks of disbelief that come with news that Canada’s top corporate CEOs will be paid more by noon on the first working day of the New Year than the average person will make over the entire 12 months.
The income gap between the super-rich and ordinary workers is mind-boggling. It also speaks to how our society recognizes the values of certain professions — registered early childhood educators (RECEs) being a perfect example.
Do we realize the valuable and important services provided every day by registered early childhood educators? Not in the way we should, even though the care and nurture of the youngest members of our society is of vital importance. Today’s infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers will become tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and leaders, so support for them in the early years is essential.
Brain development is most important before age six, and RECEs play a critical role in laying the foundation for a child’s development, learning and future success. Registered early childhood educators relate to each child’s individual needs so they can grow to be the best versions of themselves. It’s as simple as reading a book to a child or helping them learn a new word. It can mean comforting a youngster who has skinned a knee and needs a hug and soft reassuring voice, ensuring the child feels safe and secure.
RECEs also show commitment to support children and families, as noted in the Ontario pedagogy for the early years entitled How Does Learning Happen?. The resource lays out the four foundations of belonging, wellbeing, engagement and expression that are important for a child’s healthy development, and which RECEs practise every day.
VIDEO: A message from Shannon Cattoni on Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day 2022
Studies show that effective early childhood programs lead to future academic success well beyond the early years. Investing in quality child care pays for itself, yet there is still reluctance to offer living wages, benefits, and pensions that registered early childhood educators deserve.
This despite the fact that — just like other professions such as doctors, nurses, and teachers — RECEs belong to a professional college that requires them to be registered, follow clear ethical and professional standards, and carry out continuous professional learning.
At Five Counties Children’s Centre, part of our agency’s work is the Investing in Quality (IIQ) Peterborough initiative.
Funded by the City of Peterborough, Five Counties staff guide the IIQ initiative which supports registered early childhood educators and all supporting staff in the Peterborough region with professional learning sessions, communities of practice, mentorship opportunities, access to resources/information, and an annual Inspiring Early Learning Conference.
This work is essential to support and retain RECEs in a profession that has seen many people leave in droves, while also preparing and mentoring a new generation to take leadership roles in the local early learning profession at a time when many of its current leaders are set to retire.
We need to open our eyes to the important work being done by registered early childhood educators. We shortchange their work at our own peril, given that the value they provide our children is worth its weight in gold.
Shannon Cattoni is the Program Manager at Five Counties Children’s Centre who oversees the Investing in Quality initiative.