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How do we find and create the early childhood educators of tomorrow?
The answer is through inspiration and a desire to make a difference, according to Valora Washington, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition. Her keynote speech at the ECE Summit in Boston addressed a giant crisis in the field: the shortage of skilled, qualified educators for children nationwide.
Her wicked good speech, to borrow Boston speak, offered ideas on how we can “Put the Pieces Together for the Early Childhood Workforce.” And it struck a chord among 200 teachers, experts and program directors who converged at Suffolk University in Beantown.
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) Head Start and its partners, Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Nurtury and Horizons for Homeless Children held the summit to give early childhood stakeholders a chance to join their voices and find ways to move forward in filling the gap in the early childhood workforce. During the full-day summit, attendees learned about the latest workforce trends, explored issues affecting recruitment and retention and focused on solutions.
The answers aren’t as simple as ABC, but some promising suggestions came from a panel facilitated by Marta Rosa, president of MTR Consulting Services and former executive director of the Child Care Resource Center. The panel — which included Paula Bacon, Amy O’Leary and Maki Park, as well as Rosa — discussed the role advocacy plays, the challenges immigrants face in entering the early childhood workforce and the need for teachers who reflect the races and cultures of the children they serve.
The problems discussed were not new, Rosa said.
Educators have long confronted “low wages, high demands and expectations, coupled with low acknowledgement of the field as a profession,” she said.
Yet Rosa was struck by the alchemy that emerged as attendees met in small groups and traded ideas.
“They left the summit energized, optimistic and inspired to move on the agenda of recruitment,” she said.
Much of the credit for this success goes to the ECE planning committee at ABCD. The team included Sharon Scott-Chandler, ABCD executive vice president, who welcomed attendees to the summit and gave them an overview of the day ahead.
“We’re at a crisis point in recruiting and retaining a quality work force for children, who all deserve the very best,” she said with a sense of passion that fired up the summit from the start.
Kudos also should go to Yvette Rodriguez, ABCD vice president of child services and Head Start, who first had the idea to hold a grassroots forum to discuss the gaps in the education of our nation’s young.
“Our goal was to light a fire,” she said, “and make sure it doesn’t stop.”
A relentless effort is called for because this goliath of a problem has so far eluded our shots at a solution. One promising answer, Rodriguez pointed out, is to help more educators get a Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential, which is a “strong foundation for anyone in the field” and a vital step in “creating a pipeline to build the next generation of early childhood educators.”
Other pieces of the puzzle, as Washington pointed out, include “establishing guiding principles, giving voice to practitioners, innovating pathways and adding resources and support.” The key tactics to keep in mind, she said as she rallied the troops, are to plan, prepare and advance!
“Will we face Goliath as chameleons hiding out?” she asked, “or do we face Goliath as a visible architect of change?”
We can be the leaders our field needs, she said, if we use our heads, hearts and hands to take our best shots at Goliath. We can put the puzzle together if we “advance with insight and revelation about our core vision and identity as educators. The gap between vision and reality is the place where we lead. We create tomorrow by what we do today.”
To hear Dr. Washington’s remarks, click the video below.
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