In part II in this series, Pat Dickinson, program director for the Bachelor of Early Childhood Studies, Charles Sturt University (Ontario), shares her views on the future of early learning in Ontario. Her responses focus on the power imbalance between certified teachers and early childhood educators and the fact that the McGuinty government has an opportunity to resolve this long-standing power imbalance.What would ECEs consider to be the ideal staffing arrangement for full-day kindergarten?
PAT DICKINSON: I think ECEs would accept any staffing arrangement that reflects a true partnership between themselves and the kindergarten teachers. The recommendations in the Pascal report [a.k.a. Early Learning Advisor's report] were a big step in helping to resolve the power imbalance between certified teachers and early childhood educators which is a pervasive international issue in this field.
What do ECEs want parents to know about the strengths/capabilities of early childhood educators?
PAT DICKINSON: Early Childhood Educators have had two years or more of intensive education and practice working with children in this age group and have earned a diploma or a degree that is an indication they have demonstrated competence in this regard. They have entered this profession because of the satisfaction they receive from interacting with children and parents on a daily basis, as opposed to other rewards such as financial remuneration or status.
"In order for the profession to continue to attract Early
and to help them better meet your needs and those of your children,
they need to be given professional recognition and status for the specialized education
they have received and the competence that they demonstrate on a regular basis."
What do ECEs want to say to parents as the Ontario government is set to make really key decisions about the future of education in this province?PAT DICKINSON: In order for the profession to continue to attract Early Childhood Educators and to help them better meet your needs and those of your children, they need to be given professional recognition and status for the specialized education they have receive and the competence that they demonstrate on a regular basis.
Have ECEs and teachers traditionally functioned as allies/partners? Do you think a misstep by the Ontario government has the potential to damage relations between members of the two professions? What would be your advice to the people who making these decisions?
PAT DICKINSON: There has always been tension between these two groups because they both feel that they have rights and responsibilities in relationship to this age group of children. It is hard to enter into true partnerships unless there is a recognition of equal status, or at the very least, the respective strengths of both groups.
It is critical that the issue of staffing of full day early learning programs take these tensions and imbalances into account when making decisions for the future. Early Childhood Educators are eager to create partnerships that will better meet the needs of children and families, and would welcome working in a true collaboration with Kindergarten teachers.
Do you think ECEs’ knowledge of the very early years and the holistic approach they take to understanding the needs of the entire family would serve them well in the kindergarten setting?
PAT DICKINSON: I have taught four and five year olds in both kindergarten and preschool settings and I have worked with early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers throughout my professional career. I have met exceptional early childhood educators and exceptional kindergarten teachers, but I have long advocated for the need for more specialized education for kindergarten teachers that is consistent with the type of education provided to early childhood educators. I know from working in both faculties of education and colleges of early childhood education that teachers receive very little specialized education in how to best support the growth and learning of four and five year olds.