Twenty-nine years ago I was a new college graduate. I thought I knew it all. I had passed all the classes, completed all the practicums… I was done. I was ready to start my career as an Early Childhood Educator. What more could I possibly need to know to look after children? Well little did I realize… I had A LOT more to learn.
As I look back on my early years as a new ECE, I realize how much my chosen profession has changed and evolved since then. When I graduated, we were taught the theme-based curriculum which meant you picked a topic and did all kinds of activities on it all week long. It didn’t matter if the children were interested or not. All the songs, stories, art, games and circles were based on that one topic. I also remember we had to move rooms every 20 minutes to 1/2 hour. Not the long periods of time that we now understand children require to develop deep play. I remember feeling a little lost, just not sure what my purpose was in the grand scheme of the daycare world.
I have come to realize over the last number of years just how much more I had to learn back then. Over the years, I lost my way and I needed to find my passion for childcare again. I wanted to figure out my purpose. How did I do this? I took some time for reflecting and I found like-minded people who believed what I believed and surrounded myself with them. I created a network of peers who wanted to learn more and do better. I took more classes. I began teaching classes and workshops. I sought out quality professional development. I read books and I listened. I listened to people with more experience than me, I listened to people who had different experiences than me, and most importantly I listened to the children. For as much as I am able to learn from the adults I choose to surround myself with, I learn just as much if not more from the children I work with.
I have been known to say I am an island and I work hard to keep people out. Sometimes I feel safer that way but I have come to realize that being an island is pretty lonely. Just recently I was fortunate to attend a child care conference in North Dakota. I went with a friend whose ability and insights I greatly respect and I was able to meet some other amazing ECE’s attending the conference. I also got to meet and spend time with some inspiring presenters. I learned so much in those 4 days that again re-inspired me to push myself to learn more and do better for the children I care for and families I serve. I am happy I got off my island.
Am I there yet? Have I learned all there is to learn? Nope! Will I ever get to the end of my learning journey? I hope not because if I do then I know I am done working in this field. I hope I never get to the point in my life where I think I am too old to learn something new.
“Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching” -unknown