Us/Them: Practitioners and Policy Makers

Early childhood educators pathways are as varied as early childhood educators themselves. Our professional journeys are full of starts and stops. Our past experiences informs our current and future practice. However, our belief in the importance of early childhood is shared as our touchstone in our work. The personal work of defining oneself as an early childhood educator is shaped by cycles of experiences that refine our values, beliefs, and ethics. Our communities of practice reinforcing professional identity, professionalism, and professional engagement and strengthens by our sense of belonging in early childhood education. 

While we define who we are as educators, we are increasingly held up to scrutiny in a politically changing climate that is trying to define how we teach. Rather than have an authentic seat at the table, we are often overlooked in the development of policy. This leads to an us (early childhood educators) and them (policy makers) mentality. A lack of trust between the two groups further reinforces this divide. The outcome of this bifurcation of early childhood education/policy leads to early childhood educators' beliefs that state policy makers fail to acknowledge the multiplicity of early childhood field.  

While the acknowledgement of the multiplicity of early childhood education may occur, policy makers and system administrators often fail to communicate an authentic understanding of the work of educators in the classroom. Further, the complexity of the early childhood system often lead early childhood educators to minimize their engagement in professional development systems. 

The unintended consequence of this bifurcation is that it leads to a perception that policy makers think of the early childhood field and profession as simple. The simplification of early childhood education prevents early childhood educators from making meaningful and positive connections to state professional development systems, leading to a separation of professional practice from early childhood policy. 

The separation of professional identity and practice from policy decisions is the dominate crisis in our field. How will you respond?