Perception is Reality

I chat with my brother sometimes. He’s a producer for a prestigious advertising firm. I’m a preschool teacher.

He tells me about his clients who find ways to ask for outrageous things. I tell him about my three year olds who want to throw the sand on the floor instead of keep it in the tub.

He tells me about his projects where he is building campaigns using the best technologies. I tell him about our art project using yarn and glue as we explore colors.

We aren’t so different he and I. We’re professionals and we take our jobs seriously. We’re eager to make names for ourselves by doing outstanding work and we work hard. He knows that about me and I know that about him. He is my brother, after all.

But the perception of our professions put us in different categories. Who sounds more like a professional to you? A Producer or a Preschool Teacher? Case in point.

I don’t mean to diminish what my brother does. He is excellent at his job. But why am I even apologizing for comparing the level of our expertise? Case in point part deux.

The thing is, the perception of the average preschool educator is not a very prestigious sort of thing. My pay check looks like an electricity bill, some schools hire people with resumes as long as a Facebook post, and part of our job responsibilities include wiping noses and “supervising” nap times (aka texting on our cell phones).

I get it.

But how do you explain the teacher that has masteries in pedagogies and curricula? Or a teacher with expertise in behavior management and intervention skills? And how about teachers who have cultivated contextual knowledge on the children they serve in regards to building a multicultural and diverse classroom community?

What defines a professional anyway? Isn’t it defined by their level of expertise and knowledge in their field? How about the quality of their work and manner in which they perform their work? But no one cares to distinguish a good preschool teacher from the rest. We are all babysitters who work in buildings that happens to have lots of babies all at one time.

So how do I explain this to someone I don’t know? How do I get them to see that this yarn project is a process-based activity that develops fine motor skills, regulates social and emotional skills, while teaching cognitive skills in the areas of math and logic? To someone else all they heard was yarn and glue and they hope it looks like a tree when they’re finished.

I heard of a teacher at a daycare once tell me that she came up with a title for herself. She introduced herself as Gigi Schweikert, NDR. It stood for Neuro Development Researcher. All of a sudden people approached her with a different attitude. They listened to what she had to say. The only thing that changed was the way people perceived her.

And that’s what it takes. Sometimes, you just need to change how people perceive you and it becomes their reality. After a while, it will change your reality too.

When you act in a way that is indicative of a high level of professionalism, people treat you like a professional. If enough people do it at the same time, then the perception of our profession starts to change.

Here’s to hoping that what you do and what I do changes how people perceive teachers in early childhood education.

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2 Responses

  1. Pat Armstrong says:

    David: Rabbi Donna and I were talking about this very same thing 2 days ago. She works as a teacher in the public school system north of here which doubled it’s size in one year due to it’s rep as a good school system. For the last two years they have been trying to geta levy passed to stay open. A friend who lives there had 40 students in her honors English class.
    Government guaranteed free edication is a two edged sword. The goal was to have a nation of educated children and thus reduce poverty. What happened is that people began to see an education as owed them instead of as a priviledge. Parents turned over the education of their children to the government. As with most thing that are “free” it was perceived as having little value. If we had to pay for an education and only those who earned it by work were allowed to participate, then teaching would once again become a valued profession as it was in the early years of our nation.
    OK Thats my rant for today, have a great holiday weekend.

  2. Teacher Ashley says:

    Hey, David. Saw in your bio that you had this blog, and I’m glad I clicked on over, because I needed to hear what you said in this post right about now! It is so easy to get bogged down in the difficulties of what we do, easy to become a little resentful about the paltry pay and lack of prestige and start to perceive what we do as just, you know, the grind. But the fact of the matter is that we have a fabulous and important profession, that we CHOSE it, and that the rewards are really enhanced when we constantly give it ALL we’ve got.

    Glad to have you in our classroom!

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