Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 7/2/2005 2:14:49 AM
Early childhood education is severely underfunded, and that means those working in the field often are overworked, underpaid and subject to burnout.
"It’s sort of strange that early childhood education would be so underfunded, since mandated teacher-child ratios make it one of the most expensive things to operate," says LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe. "As a result you have people who often are underpaid and overworked being charged with the responsibility that comes with caring for young children.
"So it’s not surprising that many early childhood educators ‘burn out’ and quit their jobs – which creates high teacher turnover rates in the field."
On the other hand, Gioe says there are many things caregivers can do to help prevent premature "burn out."
"By joining a professional organization, for example, early care professionals have access to workshops, conferences, networks and support groups," Gioe explains. "Professional groups also work to promote the concept of early childhood education professionalism – which helps to educate parents, community leaders and others about the vital work of early care providers."
"In addition, by attending workshops both as a participant and presenter you are able to give and receive new ideas for your classrooms," Gioe advises.
Changing the environment of the classroom or offering new curriculum ideas to the children can help care providers to keep their jobs different and interesting, according to Gioe, who says caregivers should be sure to arrange the environment to reflect something about themselves.
On another issue that contributes to burnout, Gioe points out that many child-care centers use a staffing setup that makes taking a break seem almost impossible.
"It is important to remember that everyone needs to let their mind and body rest," she says, adding this advice for caregivers, "Take time to get out of your classroom each day whether it is to eat lunch, visit with co-workers or take a walk."
Health is another important issue to consider when trying to defeat burnout, according to Gioe, who says that eating nutritiously, exercising, getting enough rest and visiting your physician regularly are effective strategies for maintaining your health.
"Working with others also is an effective deterrent for burnout," she says. "Care providers may not always have a physical person with them in the classroom, but they can plan together."
The LSU AgCenter expert says to work with a co-worker to schedule the year’s themes, special projects, field trips, classroom swaps and so forth.
"Directors who want to help their teachers avoid burnout can arrange for teacher work days where the entire staff spruces up the space or spends time making items for their classes together," Gioe says.
Finally, Gioe says setting goals for yourself and working toward them are paramount in alleviating burnout.
"It is important for goals to be obtainable and within reach," she cautions, however. "Base goals on available resources and supports you have at the time you set them. And keep in mind that goals can always be adjusted in response to particular situations."
The LSU AgCenter expert says teaching young children is one of the most rewarding professions anyone could ever choose. "It is up to you to keep it exciting and fun for yourself and the children you care for," she says.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.