Why We Use Specific Words to Describe Our Values

Why use specific words to describe early childhood education?  Well, words have power.  How we identify ourselves is part of problem that we are facing in our profession.  Without taking back the power to self-define who we are, we will be stuck with words that others have chosen for us.  Words like provider, workforce, and daycare.  We are only as powerful as we define ourselves.  To learn more about the power of words or to geek out on our definitions, visit our Research Definitions section of this manual.

Alternative Pedagogy (Belcher-Badal, 2014)  Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Rudolf Steiner-Inspired Education. “The philosophical foundation for all three rests on a lens of oppression and freedom.  All three begin with a truth, that children possess a special kind of power and rights; ultimately, they all strive for social reconstruction.  This is an orientation towards the child's spirit and development of the human-being.  Those committed to these pedagogies are bound in philosophy, theory, curriculum, method, and socializing to recognize, protect, nourish, and respect the child's rights and potential.”

Early Childhood (NAEYC, 2011)  NAEYC identifies that “the field of early childhood education include[s] individuals who provide direct services to young children (from birth through age 8) and their families, as well as those who administer the programs in which these individuals work and who provide professional development for these individuals” (NAEYC, 2011).

Early Childhood Field (NAEYC, 2012a; NAEYC & NACCRRA, 2011a)  The early childhood field represents a multiplicity of environments, program types, and educational philosophies. Those working with young children (infant, toddlers, preschool, and school-age children in centers, homes, and schools) and their families or on their behalf (in agencies, organizations, institutions of high education, etc.), with a primary mission of supporting children’s development and learning (NAEYC & NACCRRA, 2011a, p. 5).

Early Childhood Educator (Anderson, 2014)  Individuals who provide direct services to children from birth through eight years of age in the early childhood community. Adults who work directly with children in childhood care and education settings generally self-identify their work as preschool teacher, provider, early childhood teacher or educator, after school provider, or caregiver, among others.  Early childhood research primarily uses the terms infant teacher, preschool teacher, practitioner, early childhood teacher or educator (Dana &Yendol-Hoppey, 2005; Katz, 1995; Moloney, 2010; Osgood, 2012; Ortlipp, Arthur, & Woodrow, 2011; Parnell, 2010).

Early Childhood Community (Anderson, 2014)  The interdependent and connected communities of practice where members construct meaning together in early childhood settings.  This construction of meaning together is at the heart of open dialogue between participants of a community (Cadwell, 2003). 

Early Childhood Profession (Anderson, 2014; NAEYC, 1977)  The construct of early childhood educators who participate in the practice of their profession (working with and on behalf of young children) (Anderson, 2014). NAEYC includes a series of skills, attributes and dispositions that are required for a member of the profession (1997).  Currently NAEYC uses the terms workforce and field.

Early Childhood Professional (Anderson, 2014). Early childhood educators working in an early childhood community with a specific focus that requires specialized knowledge and skills (Anderson, 2014).

Elementary Education. Formal Education for children 5-12 years of age offered in home school settings, charter schools, private and public schools.

Montessori (Belcher-Badel, 2014)  “Based on Maria Montessori’s lifework; a philosophy, methodology, and curriculum (complete with materials and training) that focuses on development of the whole child (physical, mental, spiritual, psychological, and academic).  Overarching rationale is to cultivate a better man (a complete being) who will bring society to a higher level of functioning and ultimately create social peace.”

 K-12  Kindergarten through twelfth grades as primarily used by the nations public school system to describe public school grades.

Out of School Time/Afterschool Program (NAA, 2014)  Programs serving children in elementary education in before school, afterschool and school vacation times. Children in these programs often range in age from 5 years to 12 years and sometimes middle school.  The overlap between school age and early childhood is in ages 5 through the 8th year of development.

Professionalism (Anderson, 2014)  The embodiment of enacted behaviors that demonstrate a set of skills, professional values, and ethics that guide early childhood educators in their daily practice.  Professionalism is enactment every day of the services early childhood educators provide for children, which are known as professional practices.

Professional Development (NAEYC & NACCRRA, 2011a)  One clearly defined element of professional practice is professional development, defined as, a “continuum of learning and support activities designed to prepare individuals to work with and on behalf of young children and their families…” (p. 4). 

Professional Engagement (Anderson, 2014)  The act of professional engagement encompasses participation in all aspects of professional practice, including but not limited to participation in an early learning community, professional development activities, and navigation of Oregon’s professional development system. 

Professional Identity (Feeney, Freeman, & Pizzolongo, 2012)  Early childhood educators’ personal attributes, values, morality combined with professional ethics are the foundation of professional identity.

Reggio Emelia (Belcher-Badel, 2014)  “Based on the work of Louis Malaguzzi; a philosophy, methodology, and curriculum (play-based curriculum unfolds as the children direct it) focusing on development of the child, family, and community (emphasis on quality of life, aesthetics, respect for the potential/power/rights in children, and culture).  Overarching intention is to raise confident children who think creatively, are grounded in their community, and proficient in their culture; thereby increasing the probability of them reaching their innate potential.”

REMIDA  A Reggio Emelia inspired concept that “that promotes the idea that waste materials can be resources” (Reggio Children-Reminda, 2014).

“Remida is a cultural project that represents a new, optimistic, and proactive way of approaching environmentalism and building change through giving value to reject materials, imperfect products, and otherwise worthless objects, to foster new opportunities for communication and creativity in a perspective of respect for objects, the environment, and human beings (Reggio Children-Reminda, 2014).”

Rudolf Steiner-Inspired Education  Based on intellectual contributions of Rudolf Steiner; a philosophy, methodology, and curriculum (head, heart, and hands) that focuses on development of the whole person (skills/labor, academic/intellectual, culture/art/music, spiritual, and communal).  Overarching aim is to raise self-aware children who are as competent within (spiritually) as externally (in the world), raising humanity to a new level of being.

Other Definitions

Multiplicity (Mozére, 2012)  The complexity of the early childhood environment, with the diversity of interactions between early childhood educators and children, also varies greatly from the relationship between teacher and student found in the K-12 grade system. This complexity of interactions is referred to in this paper as the multiplicity of early childhood education, the concept that early childhood environments are complex and layered in the interactions between and among children and adults based on environments, program types, and educational philosophies. 

Further, the complexity of early childhood environments’ is comprised of highly individualized daily experiences between adults and children (Rinaldi, 1998).  The difference between early childhood and K-12 system environments and a lack of understanding of early childhood’s differentiated structure is cause of much tension in bridging the systems (Ailwood, 2003; Copple & Bredekamp, 1991; Dalli & Urban, 2010).

Professional Growth Patterns of Early Childhood Educators  The professional growth patterns of early childhood educators that contribute to their professional identity are identified by Katz (1995) as having four distinct phases: survival, consolidation, renewal, and maturity.  These four phases identify the capacity for professional engagement based on experience over time.  Survival and consolidation focus on the relationship between the early childhood educator and the educator’s classroom.  Early childhood educators in these two phases work on identifying how to be effective as a teacher of young children.  Renewal marks a turning point where early childhood educators start to look beyond their classrooms into the larger professional development system, and start to seek connections between their own professional practice and others in the field.  At this stage, early childhood educators are “particularly receptive to experiences in local, regional, and national conferences and workshops, and they profit from membership in professional associations and participation in their meetings” (Katz, 1995, para. 10).  In the final phase---maturity---early childhood educators are able to reflect on their beliefs from a place of security in their professional identity.

The interdependent and connected communities of practice where members construct meaning together in early childhood settings.  This construction of meaning together is at the heart of open dialogue between participants of a community (Cadwell, 2003).