Who are we?


In case you do not know, early childhood professionals have been struggling to bring attention and seriousness to the  field for a very long time. I happen to be one of those professionals. As I am at the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) conference this week, I wanted to reflect on my thoughts and our many discussions with colleagues one of which took place yesterday. 

The big question is “Who are we?”. Can anyone do what we do as good as we do? Does is take a certain skillset to perform what needs to be performmed to support children’s growth, development and learning? If yes, who has the skillset? Can any and every one be an early childhood educator? So, here is what I think…

I started my journey in education when I was 13. Actually, it is a lucky number for me. Growing up in Turkey, I was intrigued by languages. My cousins spoke German, my sister was learning English and listened to artists like Michael Jackson, George Michael, Lionel Ritchie… I loved the tunes and how the words sounded to my ears. I thought it was so cool to be able to speak English. English as a second language was just beginning to be a hot subject in Turkish education system and schools that were teaching every subject in English except Turkish grammar, history and social studies started to pop up everywhere. Some were like public charter schools and some were private. Of course, you had to take a test and score high enough to get in. I do remember how my heart felt like blowing up when I got in. Excited to see the books shiny, colorful with lots of cool sounding words, I could not wait to get started.English for a Changing World was the name of the series and Streamline was for spoken English class. I totally fell in love with the language. Any how… My third year in my so lovely relationship with English language, I realized how much fun it was to teach others. I was helping family members and neighbors. One summer I gave lessons to a lady who was going to visit her sister in London and wanted to learn at conversational level so she would not feel awkward. She was my first student I charged tuition. Yay! It went on and on… 

I decided to teach English for the rest of my life. Hence the reason I majored in English Language Teaching. After I moved to the States, I was not sure what I was going to get my M.A. in. I went back and forth for a while and at the same time I was applying for jobs that had nothing to do with teaching. I wanted to take it slow and easy so that I could focus on my studies. Well… That is how I found  myself in early childhood with little, wonderful, curious people. Hiring manager looked at my resume and interviewed me only to say that “I am not wasting your talent and experience at the front desk. You belong to the classroom”. I was confused and scared. I never thought I would be able to work with little children. My first reaction was “Oh”. Second thing came out of my mouth was “Thank you, allow me to think about it and I will get back to you”. I said to my husband: Children need patience, a different type of patience. I went to college to work with middle and high school students. I don’t think i can do this. After discussing over and over again, with my husband’s encouragement, I decided to give it a try. After all, I had nothing to lose. 

I learned that I had patience in me. More than I ever imagined. I  always loved children and had empathy for them. Coming from a large and close knit family, this was second nature to me. We always took care of our young and of each other. What I loved the most about being an ECE teacher was the innocence of children. Their need for guidance. Their excitement for the littlest discovery. Big contagious laughter for silly jokes and funny moments. I realized how we lose most of these positive feelings as we get older. I also realized how children and families are different and not all have the same opportunities. I thought about older children, upper grade students in general. I realized there was so much work to do at the beginning of their journey not in the middle. 


So… here I am after 13 years working in early ed world and 17 years in education field overall. I have the same thoughts. There is so much to do and everyone cannot do what needs to be done. Being an early childhood educator needs patience, compassion, caring and loving heart and a progressive mind that is all about growth. Growth mindset can exist only in people who are all about education. Personal and professional development. It also needs dedication. Not only for children and families but also for each other. It is a work of a community who share the same vision and the goals for the children and for our future. So, roll up your sleeves. 

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