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by Josué Cruz, Jr., M.S., Ph.D. CHALLENGES FACED BY TEACHERS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION In the last decade, the boundaries of the profession have changed rather dra-




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byJosu Cruz, Jr., , FACED BY TEACHERS OFEARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION In the last decade, theboundaries of the professionhave changed rather dra-matically for teachers. As wehave become a more complexand diverse society, the rolestraditionally ascribed toteachers have taken newmeaning and significance. Inthe case of teachers of youngchildren, their role hasexpanded to encompassmany, heretofore, duties andresponsibilities that wereoften considered to be part ofthe children, for allintents and purposes, havebecome a social and politicalcommodity. The welfare andeducation of children havebecome fair game for thoseseeking to win votes or sym-pathy for a particular , teachers arefinding themselves in themidst of a social revolutionbetween forces competing forthe hearts and minds of par-ents and their children. Onthe one side you have thosethat advocate for custodialcare and on the other thosethat promote learning. Bothsides have caused sufficientupheaval in the professionsuch that what teachers ofyoung children should knowand be able to do has takennew childhood educatorsface insurmountable chal-lenges in meeting their pro-fessional obligations. Asidefrom the traditional roles thatteachers have assumed, theyare now expected to serve ascurriculum specialists, diag-nosticians, health careproviders, family counselors,adult educators, programmanagers, child developmentexperts, child advocates, men-tal health specialists, nutri-tion specialists, and manyothers too numerous to the same time, the teach-ing profession is confrontingnew notions of pedagogy andmore intense scrutiny byprofessional the early yearshave now become a causec l brefor many people andgroups, there is no shortageof self-described expertsready to promote their opin-ions and solutions for thecare and education of youngchildren. Unfortunately, suchentities often lack the prepa-ration and the grounding inthe various bodies of knowl-edge that comprise the fieldof early care and example, all too often,the curriculum is misunder-stood and looked upon assomething that teachers dotochildren and not as some-thing that teachers do withchildren. Parents are fre-quently considered a part ofthe physical landscape andnot as the child s firstteacher or partner in theteaching and learning enter-prise. Here teachers are rele-gated to assembly line rolesand pressured to keep to acertain instructional timeschedule under the guise ofteaching and children learn-ing. This approach to thecare and education of youngchildren will surely under-mine the current mantra of no child left behind soprominently promoted 7/7/03 8:07 PM Page 2certain groups and individu-als. In this highly politicizedenvironment of schools andchildcare, early educatorsare faced with the challengeof defining what to teach,when to teach it, and why itis important to teach it, allagainst enormous challenges are,indeed, daunting. But it isimportant for us as a profes-sion to be able to assure thepublic that we know whatchildren should know andwhen they should know professionals, early edu-cators must take ownershipof the challenges and pro-vide the leadership to makeit happen. The early child-hood profession is not for thefaint of heart or the passiveindividual. We are an active,demanding, and educators are thefirst line of defense in theteaching and learning ofyoung children. The impactwe have today will be felttomorrow and for genera-tions to come. Hence, ourlegacy will be Cruz, Jr., has an in EarlyChildhood Education from the University ofWisconsin, Milwaukee, and a inEducation from the University of Wisconsin, 7/7/03 8:07 PM Page 3

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