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Why pursue a career in early childhood education

“I think that teaching is a beautiful profession and that teachers of young children do one of the best things that there is to do in life: bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their years of greatest curiosity” – Jonathan Kozol

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My elementary school years were filled with playful and joyous experiences, thanks to the teachers who graced my early life. Due in part to these fun moments, I was drawn to education. Upon entering college, I enrolled in an elementary education (K-6) preparation program. One of the required courses in the program was Introduction to Early Childhood Education. The professor required a 20-hour field experience in a preschool classroom. I was not excited about this because I wanted to work with older students. Interacting with 4 to 5 year-olds was a frightening proposition.

I can honestly say the preschool placement was the most impactful experience in my development as a young teacher. In those 20 hours I learned to cherish the precious stage of life known as childhood where kid-initiated, unstructured play reigns supreme. The preschool created a joyful and harmonious environment that valued play as the foundation upon which the development of the whole child (cognitive, creative, emotional, physical, social) was built. In this nurturing environment, children played with their peers and experienced their first glimpse at independence through self-initiated activity, creativity, social participation, and motor expression.

One young child, Brittany, experienced separation anxiety each morning and so to ease her mind we shared knock-knock jokes together.

My jokes were lame.

“Knock, knock,” I said.
“Who’s there?” asked Brittany.
“Ice cream,” I replied.
“Ice cream who?” asked Brittany.
“I scream when I see a spider,” I stated. No laughter followed!

Brittany’s jokes were far better.

“Knock, knock,” said Brittany.
“Who’s there?” I asked.
“Pucha,” said Brittany.
“Pucha who?” I asked.
“Pucha arms around me baby,” laughed Brittany. Followed by a huge hug.

This 20-hour field experience in preschool altered my career path and life in many ways. I earned my early childhood certification and served as a preschool teacher for five years; earned a master’s degree with a concentration in early childhood education; and earned a Ph.D. with a concentration in early childhood education. My interaction with hundreds of children like Brittany inspired me to pursue a career in early childhood education where I was able to “bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their greatest years of curiosity.”