Over the years, I have spoken to thousands of early childhood educators and in asking them about their work, they often share the following phrase.
“I love children”
I have come to believe that this is the single most damaging phrase to our professional identity. In that simple, well-meaning statement, we dismiss every professional skill that we worked so hard to build.
We must acknowledge that somewhere in our past or present, we have used the phrase, loves children. We need to break the habit of using this phrase. It shows a lack of reflective practice. The ability to articulate what you do is so much more than a single value that fails to capture the depth of our work.
When we share that phrase with parents, with our community, we dismiss our skills as a single attribute---basically we are saying, “If you love children, you can do this job.” However, we know that quality experiences for young children, experiences that intentionally nurture socio-emotional, physical, and cognitive skills through environments, thoughtful experiences, and interactions require great skills. Early childhood educators then reinforce those intentions with reflective practice, thinking upon the needs of children, what might come next in scaffolding children’s learning. It is a whole professional cycle of planning, observing, assessing, and reflection that makes intentional early childhood educators everywhere.
We must take care in the words that we use and the values we convey when we speak of why we come to the work. By reflecting deeply on our intentions and practicing how to articulate why we make connections with children, we advance our professional voice and help to break the cycle of assumptions about what it takes to care for and nurture children from characteristics to skill sets.