This past weekend I was travelling back to Rapid City from Brookings.
We had pre-planned our route to be sure that we stopped in DeSmet to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic homes. My daughters are ten and at the perfect age for Laura Ingalls Wilder to make an impact on them. They have begun to read her books, and were very excited to visit the places she lived, the schoolhouse she attended and the replica of the schoolhouse where she taught.
Laura began teaching elementary school at the age of fifteen in a one room log schoolhouse with no windows and one wood stove that her students would huddle by to keep warm during the winter. Snow would blow in under the door, and through cracks in the walls.
I contemplated on the history of education in our state. I thought about homesteading educators with the same spark and love for working with young children that we have, and about the impossible challenges they faced. I also thought about the educators I know with less dedication, and how the academic crowd would thin if they had to face these types of circumstances.
I think sometimes our state forgets how hard the original homesteaders worked to make this part of the world liveable. Our modern conveniences have distanced us from the struggles of the past. We take for granted what has already been built, and take a complacent approach in continuing to build for the future.
Do we have a tendency to focus too centrally on how we can improve and support our classrooms and our centers, that we turn a blind eye to the ways in which we can work to make early childhood education in our state great?
Two observations from this past week stand out to me:
- On a conference call with the state regarding the new Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, a provider became very passionate about the difficulty of meeting all of the new standards. She also wanted to know why providers hadn’t had a voice in the changes. Here is the problem, providers DID have a voice, two years ago when they were looking at developing the law. There were webinars, conference calls, and even meetings we were invited to in Pierre. Since the law was passed we’ve been discussing the new requirements and the plan for implementation for over a year. THIS is why it is important to be aware of what is going on in Early Childhood Education on a state and national level. We can’t just focus on our classrooms and centers and react to whatever is handed to us and claim we weren’t made aware. That is not a question of being unaware, that is ignoring information that has been presented to you. As a side note, I find the changes positive and necessary, and more information about them can be found here.
- I discussed the topic of last week’s blog regarding achieving higher education for our workforce with another director. She told me that this deficit was pointed out to the State of South Dakota about sixteen years ago, and it was abandoned. I’m paraphrasing here, but the state cited, “What additional benefits would early childhood educators receive with higher education? Will you be willing to pay them more?” A valid point, but one which needs to be addressed, not swept under the rug for sixteen years while the state and local governments and the community at large tisk tisk at our underqualified workforce.
Our state was pioneered by a hardy, dedicated, and more then a little optimistic spirit. We have to harness the kind of determination our state was founded on and strive for something better. We have to work together to strengthen our workforce, and advocate for our rights and those of our students. Attainable higher education opportunities need to be created, wages need to increase, a mentorship program needs to be re-implemented, we need to connect with our more rural facilities to provide resources and support, and we need to work with our communities and local and state governments. All of this is coming, let me know if you want to get onboard.
What if South Dakota wasn’t one of the worst states for Early Childhood Education, what if it was one of the best?
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