I interviewed Martha Stokes, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. She teaches at Everbrook Academy of Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. I interviewed on 14th October 2020 via Zoom and the interview lasted one hour.
Student (Ashley): Thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to help me with this assignment.
Mentor (Martha): You are welcome. It is my pleasure to help a future daycare professional to understand the aspects of the job.
Ashley: Thank you. Let’s get started. What attracted you to daycare or wanting to care for children?
Martha: My mother was a preschool teacher and I saw how pupils would get excited when she was around because she was fun. When I was in high school, I realized that I wanted to give that kind of simple joy to other children.
Ashley: It seems to me that teaching was not your original dream profession.
Martha: Actually, I wanted to be a mural artist when I grew up but that dream ended in high school when I realized that teaching would be more satisfactory for me. I wanted children to enjoy school as much as I did when growing up, so I knew that the best way to achieve this was to interact with young children.
Ashley: Wow, that is interesting! So you gave up your dream of becoming an artist?
Martha: My dream is still alive because I use my art skills to teach young children how to draw. Some children are naturally gifted artists and I use my talent to help them develop their own so that they can advance and if possible turn it into a profession in the future.
Ashley: Why do you consider yourself an early childhood professional and what does “professionalism” mean to you?
Martha: An early childhood professional has the personal attributes, skills, and knowledge required to enhance children’s learning. They facilitate an environment that allows children to develop socially and cognitively and to feel safe as they learn the skills they need for later success. I am a professional because I perform valuable work and I hold myself to high standards because I want to change the way that society perceives this profession. People think of us as babysitters but we are teachers who enhance children’s learning and development, continuously improve our knowledge base, and are willing to find answers when we are unsure about something.
Ashley: Research indicates that professional training and development are important for quality practice in early childhood development (Modise, 2019). What are your views?
Martha: I believe that professional training and development are critical because they allow educators to join networks of like-minded individuals, share their ideas, and stay updated about events in their field of study. This is usually a continuous process, and educators should be willing to refresh their knowledge once in a while and to expand their skills.
Ashley: Which teaching methods and strategies do you use most often, and who are the philosophers and theorists who have influenced your work?
Martha: I use a milestone-based curriculum that focuses on cognitive, language, physical, health, and social-economic development. Our school curriculum is based on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math) and it offers stimulating, interactive, and challenging lessons so that children enjoy learning and become independent thinkers. I apply Piaget’s and Bandura’s philosophies in my work to improve the children’s interactions with their peers and with the environment.
Ashley: What, if any, formal education do you have in this field? How do you continue to grow your skills and knowledge in working with young children?
Martha: I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. I value professional development so I continuously study current and best practices in pedagogy. I also research the teaching methods applied in other countries to determine what I am doing right and what I can do to create positive change in learning.
Ashley: When you find interesting ideas, how do you implement them?
Martha: I talk to our school’s administrators about what I have learned and then ask them to determine if the idea is applicable in our school. If the research and agree to it, I apply it to my classroom.
Ashley: How do you measure your effectiveness in helping children achieve developmental and learning outcomes?
Martha: When I see that a child can perform all the tasks required for their age, particularly when they had problems when they started the class, then I know that I have helped them. I use observation because it calls attention to my behavior and practices and to how these impact the child.
Ashley: Do you feel your role as a professional has changed since you first entered the field? If so, how?
Martha: Yes, it has changed significantly. In the early days, I only took care of children’s learning needs but I now support their cognitive, social, and academic learning and development. Research indicates that many children’s early learning and development were previously limited and prevented them from effectively succeeding in school.
Ashley: What can the education board in Chicago do to improve the profession?
Martha: It can increase awareness about the importance of high-quality early childhood education and also offer guidelines on how aspiring and current professionals can obtain certification and licensure.
Ashley: What are some challenges you face as a childcare provider, and what solutions do you believe are needed?
Martha: Parents can be very demanding and have unreasonable or challenging requests, complaints, or questions. They can help by understanding their role in education and what they can do to ease their children’s learning. The pay is also low but I believe that the more society recognizes this as a valid profession, the more likely it will be accorded the respect it deserves and thus generate a commensurate salary.
Ashley: Beyond teaching and learning, what do you think your role is in the classroom and your community?
Martha: Teachers see how their work affects the community when they observe students achieving personal and academic success. This makes them realize that their impact goes beyond the classroom.
Ashley: Have you seen these changes in the community?
Martha: Yes! Parents often thank me for molding their children into confident individuals.
Ashley: Do you engage in community activities, and what are the benefits?
Martha: I attend community activities to better understand the behaviors and attitudes of parents and then to use this information to motivate their children in school. Such engagements allow me to socialize with parents and thus gain more insights into their children’s needs.
Ashley: What do you believe child-centered learning is, and how to embrace a holistic approach to teaching and learning?
Martha: This is a pedagogical approach that allows children to share in making decisions about their learning, demonstrating that pupils can lead when they take charge of activities. A holistic approach involves developing children’s social, cognitive, emotional, creative, and intellectual potential and encouraging them to be personally and collectively responsible.
Ashley: Do you think all schools should embrace holistic teaching and learning?
Martha: Yes. This will develop students who are critical thinkers and can link learning to their environment.
Ashley: How do your curriculum, daily schedule, environment, and materials support your objectives for children’s development and learning?
Martha: Children need time to learn, play, and interact with the world around them. I, therefore, design my schedule and space to support effective and positive routines that will increase development and learning. My schedule is highly flexible to meet children’s needs for play and structured work. I give them free-choice educational sessions, outdoor play, large-group and small-group activities, and individual attention as is necessary.
Ashley: What are some of the developmental and learning outcomes you want children to achieve in your care? What are your objectives for their growth and development?
Martha: I would like to see the children achieve physical, language, educational, social, and intellectual milestones that are appropriate to their ages. They should gain confidence, be involved learners, and also become effective communicators. I want the children to develop a positive sense of self and to attain skills that will lay foundations for the next stage of their lives.
Ashley: In your opinion, why is the period of early childhood development special?
Martha: A child’s mind and identity are forming, so the individuals in the environment can positively or negatively influence children. The bonds that they form at this stage will impact their future social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.
Ashley: How do you engage in reflective teaching and professional development?
Martha: Through examining my reactions to children and their actions and by understanding the source of these reactions. I am always curious about children’s play and watch them closely to see how they interact. Part of this process involves documenting details of their conversations and activities and also reading professional literature to learn more.
Ashley: What surprises you most about your work in early childhood education?
Martha: The fact that society undervalues our importance and yet we mold children to become future leaders and unique people in society.
Ashley: What advice or guidance do you have for someone earning a degree in early childhood education?
Martha: Be prepared for the good and the bad side of teaching. You will find joy in seeing a child develop, but also understand that the process of achieving this growth is arduous and often thankless. Therefore, ensure that early childhood education is something that you are passionate about before you start the training.
Ashley: Thank you for your insights. You have helped me understand what I should expect and the strategies I can use to succeed.
Martha: You are welcome. Bye.
This project has taught me that becoming a professional is important if a person hopes to enjoy teaching and effectively handle the challenges which accompany it. The educational process of becoming a professional is complex and requires teachers to understand child development and early education issues so that they can offer a rich and meaningful experience for children and their families. While I became certain that I want a career in this profession, I also realized that I must learn to assure myself that I will provide high-quality education to my future learners.
Modise, M. R. (2019). Pedagogical leadership in early childhood development: A means for quality practices through professional training. Bulgarian Comparative Education Society.