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.