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pro·fes·sion·al·ism

/prəˈfeSHənlˌizəm/

noun

noun: professionalism

  1. the competence or skill expected of a professional.
    • “the key to quality and efficiency is professionalism”
  2. the practicing of an activity, especially a sport, by professional rather than amateur players.
    • “the trend toward professionalism”

 

Professionalism in any field is not only how many managers evaluate how an employee conducts themselves, but it is vital for individual success and happiness on the job. As an early educator, these two go hand-in-hand. Early educators promote learning and healthy development for children up to eight years old. While they face many challenges throughout their profession, they have a strong foundation for the practice.

Educators in early childhood have been referred to by a variety of titles, including teacher, child caregiver, and child care provider. Along with this variety of titles though, there may also be a disparity of pay and benefits among educators within many of these programs. Despite an effort launched by the National Association for the Young Children (NAEYC) to establish a cohesive framework for early childhood educators in regards to career pathways, competencies, standards, qualifications, and compensation, there is still much unifying that needs to be completed. Across the nation, depending on how the programs in the schools are paid for, some of the preschool teachers may not be receiving the pay and benefits that the kindergarten teachers in the same school are receiving.

This disparity is even more predominant when comparing preschool teaches in schools with those teaching in a community-based program. Additionally, the differences are noticeable between states regarding training required, expectations, and more. So what does it really mean to be a professional in early childhood education?

In the state of New Jersey, the years from birth to three years old are recognized as being the most critical developmental period of a child’s life. Therefore, the standards for educators are set to recognize the differences between the developmental and learning needs of young children versus those of older children. These are outlined in the NJ Core Knowledge and Competencies for Early Childhood Professionals, to help professionals asses their knowledge of early childhood development and best practices.

As a professional in early childhood education, it is vital for leaders to continue learning themselves. There are a variety of professional development strategies that can be incorporated into preschool programs, such as group meetings, peer mentoring, reflective coaching models, team development, and more.