Words matter

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I've spent 27 years caring for other people's children.

I have no complaints about how I have chosen and managed my career. It was the absolute right choice for me and I do not recall a single day in which I hated my job. I may have hated budgets or policy or standardized tests, but the children and the job? Never.

I never expected to become wealthy doing what I do. Those of us who have worked in early care and education for any length of time can empathize with the plight of our students who, after investing in their education, are asked to work for near poverty wages. The last year I worked in direct care, I earned just over 13,000 dollars. For 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year work during which I cared for eight infants and toddlers ages 6 weeks -18 months of age.

For a very long time I have taken the view that what we call things matter. Words denote respect.  If I call you a babysitter, I have subtly denoted that I am not paying for for anything more than temporary, unskilled work. Babysitters bring to mind an image of a teenager who works on a limited, temporary basis without a great deal of education in child development or curriculum.

Would it be appropriate to call me at age 23, a person with a 4 year degree, a babysitter?

No. It would not.

Day care is a term that aligns with babysitter. While it may have been helpful to discuss "daycare" circa 1889 in Hull House ( which is when we saw some of the first formalized non family care for working women), it is a term that needs to be left on that side of history.

I do not care for days. I care for children. I am not a temporary worker without education who provides unskilled labor.

I recently had words in another online venue with fellow PhD holders about their continued use of the term "daycare". I am considered to be an outlier in my opinion and continued reiteration that they use the term "child care" instead of "daycare. Most of these people with advanced degrees simply can't figure out why I insist on drawing this distinction. The feeling I get from these interactions is that I am being pedantic and silly.

Yet, I continue to insist that I am neither. I am a woman with an advanced degree in a field that continues to be underpaid and way undervalued. I see my students march into a working world in which they are also underpaid and undervalued.  The important work of shaping brains through experiences and supporting families continues to be considered "less than" in the field of education. I mean why on earth would you work with toddlers when you could teach in elementary school?

While others may casually talk about their "daycare providers", I see an inherent disrespect in that term.  Implicit in any inherent disrespect is a devaluing of the work you do - I get to look down on your work because it is less valuable than that of a teacher.  And we all know that teachers are less valuable than medical doctors.

What happens in high quality early childhood environments is far more than warehousing of the bodies of children. We are laying the foundation for thinking, for perceiving, for understanding.

We deserve some respect. We deserve to be called more than babysitters who provide daycare.

We are early care and education professionals and we provide child care.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

The thing you don't want to do, when laying with 25 acupuncture needles inserted into your body, is to make a sudden movement.

Your muscles will tense. They will tense around the needle.  They will lock onto the needle and drive it more deeply into your body, a subtle tensile pull.

You will come out of your foggy liminal state into pain.  Radiating waves of intense pain. You will forget what has happened because you were in the liminal state, floating elsewhere in your consciousness when your leg made the independent decision to stretch out, toes flexing.

The word that shouts into your skull cavity is "RELEASE!" You do not shout this out loud because you would startle the other people in the room who are, presumably, deep in their own fuzzy liminal states.  Instead you focus on the word and the mechanical process of trying to consciously unclench your muscle from around the needle.

This is not a swift process. Moment before you were not asleep and not awake. "RELEASE.RELEASE.RELEASE.RELEASE" loops like a warning siren, rattling around your previously fluffy, zen brain cavity.

The body reacts to pain by withdrawing, pulling back into itself. This is not unique to humans. All living organisms withdraw from pain.  What I must simultaneously manage is my body withdrawing, locking up, locking down, sending messages to my fingers to "GET IT OUT" with the awareness that removing the needle does not help.  Removing the thing causing my pain does not help. The benefit will only come when I walk up to the pain and melt myself around it.

I take deep breaths and exhale slowly.  It must be clear to the others in the room that something has happened. There has been a shift in my breathing and the others must have noticed, the way a parent can hear when the sleep cycle of their child is disturbed.  You hear it before you hear it.

In tiny increments, the circles of pain begin to subside.  I breathe.  "Don't fear the pain", I say to the "RELEASE" siren.   I do not ignore it, I do not console myself that it will be better soon if I just wait long enough.

I am tapping at my shell.

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