When I first began my internship at the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) I had a combination of nervousness and excitement. I knew very little about the organization, but I brought curiosity and enthusiasm with me to expand my knowledge of the early childhood profession. I felt welcomed by all of the AECEO staff as soon as I walked through the doors. They made me feel like I was part of a team, something I had never experienced before. I could not wait to begin my journey as AECEO`s summer intern!
Although my time as intern at AECEO has come to an end I am leaving with a renewed sense of pride as a future registered early childhood educator (RECE). My internship experience has provided me with the opportunity to collaborate with a team of intelligent individuals and explore the many different aspects of the early years and child care sector. For example, working alongside my mentor Lyndsay Macdonald; an RECE who is a strong leader and advocate in the sector. She taught me the importance of being a proud and strong leader who stands up for the rights of all early childhood educators as I embark on my future career as an RECE. Something I learned that I did not know before was, the many opinions and concerns early childhood educators have for the sector. For example, many educators were concerned about what will happen to their profession under the new PC government in Ontario.
I believe the opportunity to intern at the AECEO has opened doors to various positions in early childhood and family support programs. For example, I have a better understanding of various career opportunities within the early years sector, such as: community organizer & communications, public policy, government relations, administration to name a few, family and support worker, child care supervisor, educational assistant, and a teacher. I hope to explore these roles in the future.
At the beginning of my internship, it was quite an adjustment to work in an office setting and new learning environment. So, I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone and expressed my feelings about the importance of advocacy for our sector. For example, I contributed to the AECEO student blog section, as I wrote two blog posts – this is my third and final post. My first post was about my understanding and views of the AECEO publications and current policy reports and the second post was my thoughts on the turnout of the recent provincial election. Writing these blog posts helped me step out of my comfort zone because, I felt more confident articulating my opinions in topics I felt strongly about. By challenging myself I was able to work toward my goal of writing informative and engaging blog entries.
As a student, I believe it is important for all ECEs to understand the AECEO’s mission 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. Their mission is meaningful to me because I believe as a future educator, that in order to make change in our sector, we must first work together to pursue our dreams to have meaningful life-long careers in the early years and child care sector
Something that I will take away from this experience is my knowledge about the Professional Pay and Decent Work Campaign. For the past five years the AECEO has led this important campaign to advocate for the respect and recognition that ECE professionals deserve. The AECEO works alongside the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, the Atkinson Centre, and Olivia Chow with the Institute for Change Leaders in order to organize and mobilize early childhood educators to build power for change.
My internship experience has expanded my knowledge of the early years and child care sector in the areas of policy, advocacy, professionalism and the role of the AECEO as the professional association. I have also developed new skills in research, networking and communications. As my internship draws to an end I am committed to advocating and spreading awareness of the importance of being a part of a strong collective voice for early childhood professionals. For example, I had the opportunity to participant in advocacy actions during the provincial election campaign as the voice of educators and parents were recognized by candidates and voters. I represented the AECEO during Kathleen Wynne’s final speech as Premier of Ontario and I got to listen to her recap of the government’s. Later, I got the opportunity to thank Kathleen Wynne for all her hard work towards child care. This was a great experience for me as an intern because attending public events really demonstrated my involvement with the association. Other events I attended throughout this learning experience was, the Atkinson Centre Task Force Meeting, Auditor General Meeting at City Hall, Ryerson’s panel on Critical Issues in Child care Policy: Why do they matter? YWCA Women’s Issues Debate where NDP, Liberal and Green party candidates were involved, and the CUPE Convention. Attending these meetings and events, I was able to view early childhood education from many different perspectives. For example, I was able to share with others about what the AECEO does for our sector and why it is important to be a member. It is important to become an AECEO member because, the more members our professional association has, the stronger the movement will be in making a change for our sector.
Also, I gained a professional lens of examining / reviewing current issues within the early years and child care sector. For example, I was amazed when Andrea Horwath made universal child care for all a pillar of the NDP’s election platform because her platform supported the Professional Pay and Decent Work Campaign where increased wages for RECE, free non-profit child care for families in need and the expansion of non-profit spaces.Unfortunately, the PC’s won the majority and they currently have no plan for improving child care services or ECE wages. The PC’s commitment for a tax rebate is not a solution for families because it only benefits families who are able to find and afford child care. However, we have come so far in our fight for universal child care that our passion and advocacy efforts will continue.
This learning opportunity was fundamental to me because I now understand the importance of supporting all early childhood educators regardless of where they work in the early years and child care sector. I have learned the importance of advocating for ECEs because good working conditions, professional pay and decent work is extremely important for all educators to have in a highly demanding sector. Early childhood educators should be valued and recognized as the strong professionals they are. Aside from their high qualifications, dedication, and hard work, they are continually fostering children’s development and growth. Improving wages for ECEs, we will keep qualified educators working in the sector and will better reflect their qualifications, the value of their work and their participation in continuous professional learning.
As my summer 2018 internship experience is coming to an end, I have learned a lot about advocacy, professionalism and the AECEO. This internship has provided me with more knowledge and experiences in the sector. I hope to continue to advocate and find my voice within this sector. I am thankful and appreciative of the staff who mentored me during my internship.