By Chana Ingber
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love of little kids. From the time I was seven and straight through elementary, middle, and high school, I was constantly babysitting and volunteering to work with children. The majority of my free time is spent in various New York City hospitals, sitting with children in the PICU. If you were to ask any student who typically spends Shabbat on Beren Campus where to find me, the answer would likely be “playing with the campus couples’ children.”
One would think that my obvious choice of career would be education, but I considered everything else before declaring my major. Whether it was nursing or business management, I was set on NOT being an educator. Why? Because, as many people said to me, teachers don’t make any money and, besides, early childhood education is nothing more than glorified babysitting. The phrases ran through my mind over and over, haunting me in my sleep. It caused me to wonder, ‘Why do people think this way?’ The answer that crossed my mind one night was that perhaps the lack of quality educators creates for an environment that truly does seem like babysitting.
When someone who lacks knowledge of the field of early childhood pictures a preschool classroom, they may think of screaming children throwing blocks in one corner, while others scribble at a table, their sticky fingers wrapped around crayons and markers. In this person’s mind, the room is chaos, the children are out of control, and the teacher is either running around frazzled or just letting the children go. This is NOT what a proper preschool classroom looks like. If a teacher is unfit to handle a classroom, however, this may be how it would end up. When teachers are taught how to educate their students and manage a classroom, preschool looks less like a teenager watching a bunch of kids and more like an adult molding young minds. This is why the education major, a curriculum to teach people how to teach and manage a classroom, is so important.
The realization that education is a legitimate, valuable career path helped set me on my journey to become an early childhood educator. Taking courses in college-level English, psychology, and mathematics, I began to truly understand the weight of what I was taking on. It wasn’t until the spring semester of my sophomore year when I took my Foundations of Early Childhood Education course, in addition to fieldwork hours, that I realized the importance of a teacher. Teachers, especially those who work with children in their early years, have two main sets of responsibilities. Yes, they teach their students the alphabet, shapes, colors, and later on to read and write. But they also teach social skills such as sharing, how to carry on a conversation with a friend, and safety in the community.
By being an education major at Stern College for Women, I’ve been able to take courses such as Teaching Language and Literacy, Teaching Math and Science, and Arts in Education. These courses are meant to train us future teachers to best be able to help our students reach their full potential in every area, whether it be academic or social-emotional. The education major has helped me feel prepared for my career, because educated teachers are what keeps preschool from being glorified babysitting.