I have never had anyone ask to share a post on my blog before. I had so many questions whirling around my brain. What would they write? Would it be good? Is it something interesting? Will there be astute pop culture references sprinkled throughout? Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The ladies from @LearnSafari put together a great piece about early childhood educators. I hope you enjoy and share.
As an early childhood educator, my job is to teach young children and support their families as they transition through every area of development. Although it’s not glamorous or very lucrative, it is extremely rewarding! The early years of childhood are crucial and as teachers, we get to take advantage of this time to mold children and give them the basic skills that will dictate their ability to learn and relate to others for the rest of their lives. We help influence how and why children learn, we help teach them to love reading, we help them learn how to form healthy relationships, and we are the ones who will help moms and dads wade across those crazy and emotional first few years of a child’s life. We are also partners with parents when children show some development and/or learning delays; when it comes to learning issues, there are a few things that we want you, as parents, to know!
- We intentionally observe your child
As a teacher, one of the most crucial tasks I perform is that of child observation. We conduct several different types of observations, including development assessments, knowledge assessments, observations while they are on the playground, observations during free play, during circle time, during small groups, etc. We are on the lookout for skills the children need to work on in order to keep moving forward. As an objective observer (so difficult because we come to love all the children as our own) we will screen for developmental delays or difficulties, and if we notice issues in which a child is struggling, we will look for tools and activities that can help that child master, or at least improve, a skill. There are times, however, when the issue at hand points to a need for further assessment and intervention. This is one of the most difficult parts of the job, where we have to bring our concerns to parents, who often times have an extremely difficult time hearing that there is “something wrong” with their child.
Please hear us when we say that there is nothing ¨wrong¨ with your child. We love the children that we teach and when we come to you with a concern, it’s because we want to do what is best for the kids. We know that children develop at different rates, they have different skills and abilities, and they have different struggles. We want to make sure they get the necessary intervention as early as possible, so that they can learn to work to overcome their struggles.
- We individualize learning and focus on the specific needs of your child
One of the benefits of being an early childhood educator, is that our teacher to student ratios are favorable and strict. We are not overwhelmed with an unmanageable number of children and we take steps to work with each child’s individual and specific needs.
When we notice developmental delays in a child, we do not automatically assume they have a specific issue that needs to be diagnosed. We do not assume that they have autism, or ADHD, or that they may be dyslexic. We are not trying to label children. Instead, we devise a specific plan to help children overcome any problems and further their growth and learning. We realize that sometimes children just need opportunities to learn and practice new skills and that all children develop at different rates.
- Seeking out Intervention
After working with your child for a significant amount of time (remember, we spend a lot of time with them on a daily basis) we may not see any growth or improvement and we may even notice other issues that he or she may be dealing with. It is at this point that we will need to seek out intervention.
Our job is not to diagnose! As an early childhood educator, I may have ample experience with children who have a variety of learning delays, but I am not a clinician. It would be irresponsible of me to give a specific diagnosis, but it would be equally irresponsible of me to not fill you in on my concerns. I would first request a conference with you and go over any assessments and observations that I have on your child. I would go over the growth they have experienced and I would talk to you about the milestones and standards that children at your child’s specific age are usually meeting. I would then offer you an opportunity to have someone from an intervention program work with your child and I would also recommend that you take these concerns to your doctor.
At this point, I have done my due diligence and I will continue to work with your child. However, I cannot force a parent to take these issues seriously and I can’t even ask for help without a parent’s consent. But please, please do not ignore a teacher who comes to you with concerns! Maybe the teacher is wrong, but the worst thing that could happen is that you see a professional who puts your mind at ease. If there are issues, then the earlier you find intervention for your child, the better for your child’s development and quality of life!
As teachers, sometimes need help! We don’t always know how to specifically reach your child, but if we work together with you and with other experts, we can provide the very best framework for your child’s development. When developmental delays are noticed early, and a child is provided with the tools and experiences that are appropriate for their individual needs, the rate of success they experience in their lives is so much greater. We need to be partners with you in your child’s development journey and as teachers, we are here to support you!
Again, even if you discover that your child has a learning delay or disability, we want you to know that there is nothing wrong with your child. For parents, discovering that their children are struggling in certain areas, can be a very emotional and trying time. It’s important to remember that children can fulfil their enormous potential when we offer them support and opportunities. Children should always be given opportunities to explore art, music, language, science, and any other area of interest that will be enriching to their personal experience. Don’t be afraid of exposing them to new things just because they might be struggling in other areas and always remember that your child’s teachers are always on your side!
About the author
A graduate from the University of Florida, Keli Garcia Allen is a certified Spanish teacher and currently works as a preschool teacher in a bilingual classroom. She is the Lead Content creator for Learn Safari. She is currently working with her team on the development of their first learning program, Spanish Safari, an online game that will help children from ages 5 to 9 learn and practice Spanish. She is a blogger, a public speaker, and a mommy to two beautiful, bilingual daughters.