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.

0 Baleful Regards:

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