During the second day of the Ontario Child Care Policy Summit in September 2015, one question arose: Do we call ourselves early childhood educators or child care workers? And does it really matter? What’s in a name?
It was intriguing to see how a room full of early childhood educators, child care advocates and early childhood education professors could not come to a consensus on this matter. While some were strong supporters of a professional workforce worthy of a professional name, others were not keen on adopting a name that may lead to division and a lack of inclusion of all the staff working in a child care centre environment. So, how do we acknowledge our professional identity and use it as a tool to lift our profession, but also acknowledge the many people in the broader child care workforce that do not have that title?
As early childhood educators we learn that every child is an individual and every family is unique; well, this line of reasoning applies to the staff working in a child care centre, as well. We are all unique individuals who work together as a team to plan, support and constantly improve child care programs. Adopting a professional name for early childhood educators should be about educators taking ownership of their profession, taking pride in it and feeling responsible to advocate on behalf of it. Adopting a professional name for early childhood educators should not be about workforce division within the child care centre, but on the contrary, it should encourage all the staff in the centre to self-reflection, to taking ownership of their work and to advocate on behalf of the unique role that they play.
I think if we are early childhood educators we should be referred to as just that. We are qualified, and dedicated professionals and we deserve a professional name. Take, for example, teachers: Are they referred to as “educational workers”? No, they are called teachers. They have a name that defines their profession. Early childhood educators should aim to have that one name that represents all the complexities of our profession, a name that we all can identify with, and a name that reflects our professionalism. In her book, Administering for quality, Leading and Collaboration in Canadian Early Childhood Education Programs, Chandler (2016) explains that a professional is an individual who is qualified and specialized in a certain area. Therefore, an early childhood educator is qualified and specialized in working with young children. Being called an early childhood educator reflects the nature of our work (educating) and the sector we are working with (early years). Words are important and we should make appropriate use of them. Mostly because language is much more than just words; language has meaning within people. When we do not take a stand on what we would like to be called then how can we advocate for our profession? When we fail to reflect on what name better represents us as professionals then how can we expect our profession to receive an adequate level of respect and pay?
Denisa Argyo is a 2nd year student at George Brown College - Early Childhood Education diploma program