Blog post by Min Kyung You
GBC ECE Student
Field placement experiences are critical for students in early childhood education programs in Ontario. During placement, students have opportunities to apply their theoretical knowledge and skills learned from course work into practice with young children, families and community. While I was an ECE student at George Brown College, I had three different field placements with children of all different age groups. Having different placement experiences, I learned valuable and practical skills and gained knowledge while in working in childcare settings.
My fourth placement was with the Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO). Over the seven weeks of my placement with the AECEO, I had to get used to the office setting as it was a very different working environment from what I used to. This new environment brought me out of my comfort zone and I had to challenge myself in new ways, like public speaking! Being placed at the AECEO gave me the opportunity to grow and become a mature early childhood educator with a broader understanding of the profession and the sector. Before I came to the AECEO I had a narrow view that was focused on working directly in a childcare environment with children. My work at the AECEO gave me an opportunity to learn about the broader early years and child care system that influences organisational structures, policies, and communities.
During my AECEO placement, I gained in-depth knowledge about the of early childhood sector. I represented the AECEO as a student at meetings and community events; Gender Equity Budget Committee Meeting, Emergency Childcare Forum, Toronto East Enders for Child Care meeting, Valentine’s Pledge to Toronto Families and play-in event at Toronto City Hall. By attending a variety of sectoral meetings and events I was able to view early childhood education from different perspectives. For example, I was able to share families’ concern about finding affordable, quality child care for their children. In the past, I had only focused on completing my work for placement and did not think about what concerns parents and families had about child care services. Also, I gained a critical lens when examining current issues in early years and child care sector. For example, Mayor John Tory’s announcement of continuous funding for the child care occupancy grants for one year was great news, but it didn’t address all of the issues in the sector – for example, there are still thousands of families and children on the waiting list for child care subsidy while mothers/primary caregivers often have to choose between the paid labour force and staying at home due to prohibitively high childcare fees. In order to solve the problem, all the three levels of government must cooperate to address multiple issues in the early years and childcare sector .To achieve this goal, investing in early childhood education is the most fundamental solution so parents are able to afford childcare, and child care providers are able to retain registered early childhood educators by ensuring they have professional pay and decent work.
Throughout my placement, the most crucial learning experience for me was the importance of supporting registered early childhood educators. Before my AECEO placement, I did not understand why early childhood educators should support advocacy as an essential practice. It is important for ECEs to advocate because the quality of care and education for children depends on well-educated and well-compensated professional early childhood educators. Studies have shown that there is strong correlation between adequate compensation and quality of care. Unfortunately there are many early childhood educators who leave the sector or change their career path due to challenging working condition, inadequate wages, and the burnout they experience. When early childhood educators start their own families they can have difficulties affording child care service for their own children which can influence their decision to leave the sector due to low wages. However, I believe that many professional ECEs have the full capacity to provide quality care and education because they are passionate about their profession, they have pride in their work, they have a strong belief in the value of quality education and are well-educated. ECEs are equipped with in-depth knowledge of child development and teaching strategies and they are also supporting parents and parent-child relationships. Therefore,as professional early childhood educators we should work together to support one another, to raise our voices, so the general population, and government recognize the value of quality early years and child care programs and the pivotal role that ECEs play in caring for and educating children.
My learning experience at AECEO serves as stepping stone to becoming an empowered early childhood educator. The seven weeks of placement with AECEO has broadened my horizon to and deepened my understanding of the early childhood education sector in a larger context. I now understand current issues in the early years and childcare sector and acknowledge the importance of advocacy. With this accumulated learning experience, I feel empowered as an ECE student to contribute to the advancement of the ECE profession in the future. My placement with AECEO was a great experience and an accomplishment that I will take with me as I as continue to study early childhood education.