As we enter the back-to-school season, so many parents, grandparents and caregivers are feeling a flood of emotions. For me, I feel the relief that I don’t have to coordinate summer camp pick-up and drop-off in various locations that do not coincide with my work day, that I don’t have to budget for the cost of camp, and that at least for a few weeks, my kid’s calendars get a little lighter. This is also paired with a sadness that the summer is officially wrapping up, and a bittersweet acknowledgment that my babies are getting older. Each day holds a new challenge and opportunity for growth, and it is exciting to watch. My daughter’s first day of middle school was today and I counted down the hours until I could check in and ask how her day went.
Back-to-school time is also when I feel gratitude for the wonderful educators who have committed to teaching our children each day. These are the people that choose to work with children with varying energy levels, abilities, attention spans, and interests. They get to experience the big hugs when there is a celebration and joy and also get to see the big tears and disappointment (and many times with the same child in a span of an hour). They are working with children who come to school with different backgrounds, living situations, and various parental involvement. Teaching is not for the faint of heart.
There is also a group of teachers who often go unnoticed. These are the early childhood educators who not only keep our community’s children’s diapers dry, bellies full, and hands washed, but they are responsible for caring for children during the most critical time for brain development. It is during these earliest days when 90% of the brain develops so what may seem like a simple smile in response to a child’s “coo” can in reality, have long-term positive benefits! There is a substantial amount of research recognizing the correlation between high quality early learning experiences for children and the long-term impact on development, school, and life success. Since children aged birth to kindergarten spend much of their day in group care, the child care educator plays a significant role in helping children develop to their fullest potential.
Education is a gift that benefits our community in so many ways. At Children & Family Resource Center, we are committed to supporting early childhood educators through professional development and on-site technical assistance. We recently added a Behavior Support Specialist to the team who is tasked with supporting child care providers and families in a trauma-informed manner to address children’s challenging behavior. With coaching and consultation that pairs training with technical assistance, evidence, and strength-based tools, we work with early childhood educators to reinforce interactions that promote social-emotional competence in young children and implement classroom strategies to prevent and address challenging behavior. Biting, kicking, and yelling are common behaviors, but depending on how we respond, these behaviors are often unintentionally reinforced or perpetuated. These behaviors can also be a result of a deeper issue where a trauma-informed approach tells us to stop asking “what is wrong with a child,” but rather “what happened to you?” Research shows that one-on-one, customized, and supportive coaching for early childhood practitioners, like what our team offers at CFRC, are linked to improved positive teacher interactions, less teacher burnout, and increased retention in the field (Aikens & Akers, 2011).
Not only are the early childhood educators watching our community’s children during the most significant time for brain development, but they are allowing the rest of our workforce to go to work. Because of educators, our first responders, other teachers, bankers, nurses, case managers, and service providers are able to show up with the peace of mind that their child is in care for a set number of hours so they can complete their job.
I am so thankful for all the teachers out there– both those who are kicking off their school year and those who have been at it all summer long. All educators play a significant impact on our community’s children and it goes beyond brain development, foundational learning, and a healthy start. When our community’s children are being cared for and educated, we all benefit. We are able to go to work and earn money, care for the sick, protect the community, sell all the goods, attract tourists, grow food and plants, and so much more.
Jamie Wiener, Executive Director
Originally posted on www.blueridgenow.com on 9/1/2023