I think we missed a step when we were developing our profession.
While we were developing the Learning Frameworks, and implementing them, then developing the National Quality Framework including with the Law and Regs and implementing those, followed by revisiting the qualifications, restructuring worksite ways of working, implementing new ways of quality improvement, gaining higher qualifications, meeting new compliance levels and the incredible host of other innovations we are seeing in-center, there was something we forgot to do.
We forgot to embed the construct of professional identity.
If you read back through this blog you will read how professional identity is defined and constructed.
This is such a critical step to the quality outcomes of an Educator’s professional practice that ACECQA, the national oversight authority, actively encourages the development of professional identity in its book, The Educational Leader Resource (1)
“Acting as a professional, and articulating why these behaviours are important, helps others understand the scope of ethical responsibilities that shape this sector’s work with children, families, colleagues and the community. In this way, educational leaders challenge the prevailing image of educators as mere technicians, and remould their identity as educators engaged in the complex task of enhancing children’s learning and wellbeing. … Professionalism is also about advocating for the place of effective educational programs and practice in the delivery of children’s education and care. From time to time, it might mean taking courageous action and having the capacity to speak up for children’s right to quality education.”ACECQA in THE EDUCATIONAL LEADER RESOURCE 1
In short, the whole system of quality education and care has been built around Educator professional identity. What we have asked them to do has been enormous, the scope of the list of changes above shows that.
And as Educators and Educational Leaders, we are underway on this journey, but recent events, including inaccurate media commentary, some confusing employer actions (See the UWU report (2) ), terrifying levels of Educator turnover, and a host of negative comments online have shown us that we need to give Educators permission to identify what they do as being a professional, speak of themselves as professionals, and critically, speak up for their profession.
- ‘Why would anyone listen to me?” Educator 13 years
- ‘I worry that what they ignore in us reflects what they think about children. How can we let that happen, but who will listen?’ Educator 3 years
- ‘I’m leaving, no one is listening, and I don’t want to be the only one who stands up’ Educator 15 months.
Educators need a safe and protected and clear professional identity as their starting point for their advocacy for children, families, and themselves.
As a community of policy and practice and yes, governance, we need to fix this. Work is needed to draw the whole of the early and middle childhood sector’s attention, and the broader community’s ear, to this.
Educators need actions that they can take that feel safe, are empowering, and that offer each individual some advocacy experiences that build confidence and skills.
So this is what I posted on the Educational Leaders Association Facebook page on Sunday 12/12/2021 and it seems that thousands and thousands of Educators have seen it:
There is a statement that we should all have repeated.
We should have made signs for our front doors, footers for our emails, tag lines for our posts, and hashtags for our posts and conversations:
Early childhood education and care and OSHC are specialties in their own right.
Today we draw a line in the sand.
Do you want to call us child care workers? I will send your email back with a one-sentence reply:
The title is ‘Educator’.
Do you want to doubt the importance of what we do every day? I will send you back a one-sentence reply:
More than 90% of a child’s brain development happens in the years they are with me.
Do you want to treat us as though we are a lesser part of a child’s learning life than school?
I will send you back a one-sentence reply:
A full-time enrolled child is likely to spend more time with us in a year than they do in a classroom.
So, when we tell you something, for the sake of this child and every child, we expect you to listen with respect, and work with us acknowledging our expertise. If you don’t want to do that, we have a one-sentence reply for you:
The Law changed in 2012 – Stop holding us back.
And their response?
- ‘Shout it loud so that those at the back can hear’ Educational Leader 7 years.
- ‘Never has this been more important’ ECT 3 years
- ‘I saw this, my workplace shared it in our app.’ Educational Leader 1 year.
- ‘I am an Educator! Thank you’
- ‘What do you mean by professional? Don’t I need high pay for that?’ Educator 5 years
So, we have work to do – but what we can do now is stop and listen, and respectfully, get their name right – it is one small step, but it is a critically unifying one.
More on profession building and the critical element – the workforce strategy – soon.