‘P’ is for Professional

Last week I was playing a game with my 8-year-old daughter called “would you rather.” It started off rather funny: “Would you rather swim in a pool filled with kool-aid or a pond full of ducks?” After a while, though, she asked, “Would you rather be President of the United States, an artist or a hanger-outer?”  I chuckled as I asked what a “hanger-outer” was and she tried to clarify by calling this third choice a “watcher.” I was still puzzled until she finally said, “Gosh mom, do you want me to use the “B” word?” Finally I realized that she was trying to find a new word for “babysitter.” She had spent her summer with a “hanger-outer,” visiting parks, the art museum and the local swimming pool. She valued that experience and didn’t want to put the label of babysitting on something that meant so much to her.

In our house, babysitting has a negative connotation for two reasons. First, because my children tell me that they don’t have babysitters: they aren’t babies and they won’t let people sit on them. The second reason, and more important to me, is that I have worked hard to be thought of as a professional in the early childhood field and that word does not ring true for all we do in the classroom! I remember when I started working in this field, my family didn’t quite understand the choices I had made and even used the “B” word to describe my job. Because I wanted to be thought of as a professional, I knew that it was (and is!) important for me to present myself as one.

Each day, I offered a greeting to everyone who came into my classroom. I sought out opportunities to continue learning about new theory. I reflected on my day to determine what went well or where I needed to make changes. I would always think about what I wanted to say before I said it and put real thought into all questions, whether they came from children, parents or other professionals.

And who could forget the countless hours of planning and preparing for the things I would do with the children in my class? In talking with parents I would explain that what might look like mere child’s play was really the study of government (time spent in the housekeeping area as they determined roles and responsibilities), high-level math skills like data analysis (graphing our favorite foods) and a love for reading as they were immersed in quality literature experiences (felt boards and writing center activities).

Being an early childhood professional is something I wouldn’t change and work that I love tremendously. And apparently, I’m inspiring my 8-year-old to think about it, too. In our game, she had trouble deciding between being a professional “hanger-outer” or the President. She finally settled on ‘hanger-outer,’ realizing the perks of the job: hugs and snack time.