I needed a job. I was going into the final year of my undergrad with the student debt from the last three years piling on. After months of searching I still wasn’t able to find a full-time position even though I already had my RECE qualifications. I received an email from an employer shortly after giving up offering me a full-time temporary position at a licensed child care centre. As a student with no money and four months off from school, I accepted it.
Every registered early childhood educator (RECE) should have paid prep time for program and curriculum planning. As the only ECE in the room along with two assistants guess who was responsible for program planning? Me. I managed to get my planning done by working through my lunch and after hours while constantly being asked to do more by a supervisor who had high expectations because I was “the ECE in the room”.
The centre claimed to offer flexible scheduling but my job was threatened when I approached my supervisor about taking a morning off to meet with one of my professors.
I was offered $13/ hour for the work I was doing. As a professional, I insisted that this wage be raised, or else I wouldn’t take the position. As the center was desperate for an RECE (to meet the minimum standards) they raised my pay but not by much. Instead of fairly compensating their hard working educators, the owners were taking extravagant vacations.
I didn’t know that being an RECE involved working late every week. I was told when I was hired that my shift would alternate between 7-4, 8-5, and 9-6 every week. Before I knew it I found myself working the late shift every week. When I questioned this I was told that they need to have an RECE closing every week and because I was qualified, that I had to be on the closing shift.
In order to make a profit, not only did this organization underpay their educators, but they didn’t hire the sufficient staff needed to operate the center. Instead, they pressured their employees into working extra hours. I had colleagues working almost 50 hours a week and this counted as “lieu time” which was then able to be used to take time off (which you were then threatened if you tried to use it). Employees worked 9-10 hour days and were given a two hour lunch to compensate for this.
I continued to work at this centre until the I had to go back to school. I knew that this challenging work environment was all too common and I can now empathize with the RECEs who are struggling with these issues. I realized that if I wanted to move in with my significant other and move forward in life, that the income I was making wouldn’t work. I will never understand how women in single income households will make ends meet while their poverty level wages subsidize the high cost of child care. Even more concerning is that most RECEs can't even afford child care for their own children.
Where I Am Now
Currently I am an intern at the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) which is the professional association for all RECEs in the province. AECEO's mission is to build and support a strong collective voice for early childhood educators (ECEs) so they can participate in and influence positive change that benefits ECEs, children, families and communities. After my experience at this for-profit organization, I knew that I had to play a role in igniting positive CHANGE in the sector. I am doing this for my fellow educators, women and men who are undervalued for their socially important work. The only way to see change is to take part in it yourself, and that’s exactly what I am doing at the AECEO.
Nancy Santos, AECEO Intern