I often shy away from telling people that I teach preschool or am an early childhood educator. I’m not embarrassed of it—I have my master’s, I’ve been teaching for five years, and I absolutely love it. But when you say you teach toddlers or preschoolers? The reactions are disappointing:
Oh, so you work at a daycare?
I mean, that’s just babysitting, right?
Wait … but what do you even teach them?
They must be so cute!
Throughout the years, I’ve encountered a variety of reactions similar to these. Do I have to hold myself back from spewing developmental research at the person for the next 40 minutes? Yes. And I can because I have impulse control, something I learned from my preschool teachers. Read on for just a few more reasons why teaching is not the same as babysitting—or even daycare.
Teachers had to earn their degrees and other credentials.
And that includes graduate education. Because of that, we understand child development, how to teach both academics and emotional intelligence, and how to work as a team with the parents and students. We plan curriculum and daily provocations, keep up with state standards for both academics and social and emotional development, and observe each child’s growth to make sure that they are thriving and learning exactly as they should be.
We plan individualized, differentiated instruction.
Our days aren’t spent simply making sure that the kids are fed, watered, and entertained (which is exactly what I did as a teenage babysitter). Teachers are planning and organizing daily, weekly, and monthly throughout the entire year to provide individualized lesson plans and provocations to each and every student. We see that every student is working to meet our personal teaching standards, the school’s standards, and the many, many state standards.
We work 50+ hours a week.
Even on vacation, I’ll answer parent emails. I’ll stay with a student if their parent is running late. And I’ll worry at night about how their week has been, because a family transition has thrown off their entire world. We have to establish trusting and supportive relationships with the students, their parents, and our colleagues. Teachers work a lot, and we absolutely love it, or we wouldn’t be doing it.
We undergo rigorous professional development.
In Colorado, that professional development is 90 hours every five years, or about 18 hours per year. On top of that, we also have to keep up with trainings regarding safety, like CPR, first aid, and mandated reporting. So not only are teachers required to, well, teach, but they are also there to make sure that 20+ students remain safe under our care.
Of course, the reality is we get paid less than babysitters.
When I was babysitting in high school, around 2005, I got paid $10 an hour for two children, ages one and three. Say I babysat four or five kids, I’d bump that up to $20 an hour. That means that overall, my rate for one child was five dollars an hour. Currently, I have 15 students for about four hours a day. Fifteen kids at five dollars an hour for four hours comes out to $300 per day. If you split that between my co-teacher and me, we get $150 for four hours and 15 students. As a teacher, am I making $300 a day? No, not even close.
Have I thought about switching back to babysitting or nannying? Of course, but I like my job too much and know how important it is.
What are your thoughts when people say that teaching young children is just like babysitting? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, why teachers quit.
Editor’s note: We don’t have a source for the viral protest sign pictured above. If it’s yours, will you let us know so that we can credit you?