OPINION: “Teaching of sorts” – valuing teachers in the first five years

Last week I was speaking with the parent of a child who will be transitioning to a Preschool closer to home this year. This child has been attending the centre I work at, Treehouse in the Park, since she was a baby and it will be very sad to say goodbye to this family.

This parent was almost in tears as he told me how lucky they were to have found Treehouse. He expressed that his daughter has become responsible, well-mannered and independent and has been guided and encouraged to make her own choices throughout her entire time here at Treehouse.

During this conversation, I was reminded of my own ‘jarring’ experience.  Last year I told a parent of a child I had taught for a number of years that I would be returning to Treehouse as the Preschool Teacher and Assistant Director. Throughout the years of studying my Bachelor of Education (Birth-Year 6), this parent had always expressed to me how important he believed teachers were, and that, I quote, “The world needed more teachers”.

I mentioned to him that I thought he’d be very happy to hear that I had decided to go, ‘back into teaching’ after some time away from the profession. His response was what jarred me.

“Well, teaching of sorts”.

So what had he meant by, “The world needed more teachers”? Perhaps, that the world needed more ‘primary school’, or ‘high school’ teachers? Well, this varies across different states and territories, but what about the teaching of children in the most crucial and influential time in their life – the first five years?  The years that are the most important in determining learning outcomes for life?

If we wish to improve the outcomes for children in primary and high school (you know, where the ‘real’ teaching happens), the research tells us that investment in quality early childhood education is a pretty good place to start.

The decision I had made to come back to Treehouse was not so much a decision to teach in an early childhood setting as opposed to teach in a primary school, it was more so a decision to teach or not to teach. What this parent had implied is that what we provide here is a ‘lesser’ education, and that our teaching is not really teaching, but rather a ‘teaching of sorts’ (also commonly known as ‘caring’, ‘baby-sitting’ or simply, ‘wiping noses’,  as some politicians would say).

This is certainly not how I see my role or how any of the educators I work with see theirs. The decisions we make every day as educators are considered, well- informed and above all, respect the rights of all young children to receive the highest quality education.

Thanks to all of the families I’ve had the good fortune to partner with in their child’s learning, and to those who advocate for our important role in your child’s life. We wish those children who will be moving onto the next stage in their education all the best in preschool and school! We thank you for having enriched our lives.

“There is a common belief in our society that in our profession we prepare children for learning. We prepare them for school where they will begin their education. By the time children go to school they have already been learning for 5 years. There is a belief that school is where life begins. Children don’t know how to ‘get prepared’ for living. They are already living.” (Filippini, 2016).

Rebecca Morgan is the Assistant Director and Early Childhood Teacher at Treehouse in the Park Early Learning Centre, operated by Northside Children’s Services.

One thought on “OPINION: “Teaching of sorts” – valuing teachers in the first five years”

  1. I don’t know if the majority will ever realize how much goes into what we do as teachers of young children. At the end of the last school year, I had a similar experience with a father, which shocked and actually offended me as I thought more about it later. His wife was reluctant to send her boy to kindergarten and thought he would benefit from another year in preschool, as he had only had one full year and started at four. I had seen so many gains in this child over the year. The father was talking to me about the decision, and he said, “Well they really don’t learn anything in preschool..” as he finished his sentence about wanting the son to go to K. I had just sent detailed progress reports home stating all the gains socially/emotionally, and from starting not knowing one letter/number/shape at four years old, he had acquired them all. I actually cried later that day about it, realizing how he (and others) view preschool and the work I do.

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