What is happening to teachers and directors in early childhood at the moment? We are losing our mojo – our excitement, interest, energy and enthusiasm.
Just in the last few months I have spoken to teachers and directors who have had enough, who are tired, burnt out, weighed down by regulation, struggling with the changes to funding and to the National Quality Framework (NQF), overburdened with documentation, working 50 plus hours a week as well as in non term time for very poor remuneration!
The bar also seems to have been lifted for accreditation and rating with many directors and teachers feeling disillusioned with a system that demands so much and delivers so little. Families’ expectations also seem greater – the demand for immediate feedback through digital platforms is consuming us.
This is leading to teachers feeling pressured to spend a good deal of their teaching time taking photos and observations. Who is working with the children and when this is happening? Has this form of documentation improved the outcomes for families and children?
Three directors in my area have decided to go back to teaching and relinquish leadership roles. In one service they cannot find a replacement director. Other directors are forced to stay in the roles because they cannot afford to retire due to years of underpayment and little accrued superannuation. If we have lost our energy and enthusiasm, what is this doing to the sector?
We can’t attract and retain beginning teachers. The pay is too low, the expectation too high.
How can we reverse the situation? First, we need to support the IEUA’s Equal Remuneration Case. Encourage your colleagues to join the Union and do this.
We need a stronger base, with too few teachers currently being members of the Union. We need to talk this up with our employers, committees, families and communities. We know how important the first five years are and research around the world supports this. We know how outcomes for children and families improve when early childhood education is delivered by degree qualified teachers. We need to keep hammering these facts home. If not, we will lose more teachers and directors from the sector as they burn out and look for different career paths.
All children reap long term benefits from an early childhood education, especially economically disadvantaged children and the communities in which they live.
According to W Steven Barnett, PhD, from the National Institute for Early Education Research, disadvantaged populations benefit the most when their education begins during the early stages of their learning.
Without early childhood teachers all children and families will be seriously disadvantaged. But we need to find our mojo again - the enthusiasm and energy that led us to this sector in the first place.
Let’s find our mojo together!