Since the beginning of organized childcare, providers have faced a number of issues in early childhood education. Not to mention the onslaught of additional challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At ChildCare Education Institute, we’ve spent the last 15+ years helping teachers navigate life in and out of the classroom. As a result, we’ve seen first-hand the problems facing early childhood education — and we’ve learned that the first step to addressing these problems is a better awareness of them.
That’s why we’re breaking down the most prominent issues in early childhood education and how you can best tackle them.
One of the leading problems facing early childhood education is an escalating rate of teacher burnout. According to a 2022 poll, nearly half of all preschool teachers admitted to experiencing high levels of stress and burnout over the past few years.
While some of that stress is inherent to the job, most of the additional burnout has come from a severe staffing shortage affecting centers and programs across the country. Since early 2020, 8.4% of the childcare workforce has left for other professions — which is especially worrying considering many centers were experiencing staffing problems before the pandemic.
As a result, the teachers that stayed are dealing with longer hours, larger classrooms, and in some cases, new, mixed-age teaching environments.
For those educators lucky enough to find themselves at fully staffed centers, there are still a number of new stressors brought about by COVID-19, including new safety measures, check-in protocols, and more.
What can you do?: If you’re an educator experiencing workplace burnout, our course Stress Management for Child Care Providers is a great first step toward learning how to cope with your professional stress. We also recommend scheduling a regular time to reflect on the positives of each day and remember what drew you to early childhood education in the first place.
Mental health concerns.
Though mental health has always been one of the prominent issues in early childhood education, COVID-19 has truly brought it to the forefront. In Virginia alone, depression among preschool teachers has risen by 15% since the start of the pandemic. While this would be troubling for any profession, it’s especially hard for teachers as their mood can directly impact their student’s ability to learn and comprehend the material. Funding issues in early childhood education can also lead to a lack of resources for teachers who want to seek help.
What can you do?: If you’re experiencing any symptoms of declining mental health, the most important thing to do is seek help. We recommend starting with this list of 50 resources from Teach.com.
Lack of resources.
Funding issues in early childhood education are another hurdle many teachers face. According to a recent study conducted by The Century Fund, the United States is underfunding public schools by nearly $150 billion annually. As a result, many childcare providers have to dip into their own pockets to make up for the small classroom budgets they’re given — something that’s especially challenging given most teachers are already underpaid.
What can you do?: While there’s nothing you can do to solve funding issues in early childhood education overnight, there are a number of scholarship and grant programs available to help teachers with classroom and professional development expenses. For more information on the latter, click here.
Low levels of compensation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, early childhood educators earn an average annual wage of $30,210 in the United States (with the lowest 10% making just $21,900 per year). When compared to the average public school teacher’s salary of $65,090, it’s no surprise that compensation is among the top problems facing early childhood education.
Because the average salary for the profession is so low, most educators are forced to take on a second job or rely on public income support programs to make ends meet. These can significantly add to a teacher’s burnout and can cause stress that spills over into their personal life.
What can you do?: If you’re looking to advocate for higher wages and other funding issues in early childhood education, there are a number of groups you can join, including NAEYC. You can also help set yourself apart — and potentially raise your earning potential — by earning a well-respected certification, such as your Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.
Heightened safety concerns.
Another one of the top issues in early childhood education is safety. Since the start of 2022, there have been more than 300 mass shootings — equating to roughly four per week. While not all of these shootings have taken place at schools, enough have left teachers worried about their workplace safety.
In addition to worrying about their own safety while at work, early childhood educators also often have to worry about the safety of their students. Because children attending childcare programs can range anywhere from just a few months to six years of age, there are a number of physical and environmental dangers present at any given time. Therefore, teachers have to constantly be on guard, something that can lead to increased levels of stress and fatigue.
What can you do?: One of the best ways to address safety concerns in the workplace is to feel confident in your abilities to avoid and — in the worst case — deal with any issues that may arise. Some of our top-rated safety courses include:
- Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning for Natural and Man-Made Events
- Fire Safety in the Early Care and Education Environment
- Indoor Safety in the Early Childhood Setting
- Outdoor Safety in the Early Childhood Setting
When COVID-19 hit, schools across the country raced to adopt virtual learning environments that allowed their students to connect and engage without having to attend in-person sessions. While it proved to be an effective way to limit the spread of coronavirus, it didn’t come without its own share of challenges.
For some families, a lack of access to technology meant they were no longer able to receive the instruction they needed. For others, not being able to have one-on-one time with educators led to a decline in learning. Finally, despite the best attempts from schools and video conferencing providers, teachers and students still fell victim to technology issues, including lack of connectivity, dropped calls, and more.
As the pandemic waned and in-person learning resumed, many schools opted to keep hybrid learning as an option for their students. Despite the added convenience this affords some families, it has also greatly contributed to one of the top issues in early childhood education: technology.
As technology changes in the classroom, teachers must race to keep up with it.
The same goes for the technology students interact with.
Teachers today have to decide how to incorporate technology into their classrooms, what screen time limits to set for their students and how to navigate a digital landscape that’s different every year.
What can you do?: The best way to combat the ever-changing technology landscape in early childhood education is to make sure you’re staying up-to-date on industry recommendations and research. Our The Child’s Digital Universe: Technology and Digital Media in Early Childhood course is the perfect place to start.
Lack of parent engagement and communication.
As any teacher can attest to, trying to build an engaged and communicative parent base is another one of the prominent issues in early childhood education. Unlike other professions, teachers have to deal with the 20+ personalities in their classroom, as well as the 40+ personalities of those students’ guardians. Not to mention the frustration that can result from parents who are never present — or those who are overly present.
Plus, funding issues in early childhood education can often hamper parent-teacher communication. For example, some programs might not have the funds available to provide teachers with software that allows them to quickly send email blasts to all families. As a result, educators may find themselves having to send important updates via email one family at a time.
What can you do?: While parent-teacher communication will likely always be one of the problems facing early childhood education, there are things you can do as a teacher to lessen the effect it has on you and your classroom. One of those resources is our course Parent Communication: Building Partners in the Educational Process.
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