I love to
reflect back on 1989 when I entered the early childhood field. I was living in what was called ‘base
housing’, which is a term used on military installations where housing is
provided to servicemembers and their families.
One day I was babysitting my neighbors’ children and received a knock on
my door. The kind woman who was at the
door informed me that I had been reported for illegal childcare. ‘Not to worry’, she said, as she continued to
explain to me that the Military Child Care Act had recently been passed and
anyone caring for children in their homes needed to become a ‘Certified Family
Child Care Provider’.
As a stay-at-home
mom at that time, I was already enrolled in school part-time and studying early
childhood education. Yet, the new
requirement was that I would have to become CPR and First Aid qualified, learn
about child abuse prevention and reporting, and allow for the Family Child
Director to conduct monthly inspection visits to my home. The visits would focus on health and safety
and would also allow for conversation about what curriculum should look like
for children ages birth-age 5. I became
a proud Family Child Care Provider, continued on to earn my Associates Degree,
and fell in love with my work with young children and their families.
to 1992, I decided that Family Child Care was not for me as my spouse received
orders to Naval Air Station, Keflavik, Iceland.
Upon arrival, I thought it would be best for me to get out of the house
during the day when my daughters went to school, and I accepted a teaching
position at one of the Child Development Centers. My first day at work, the ‘Training and
Curriculum Specialist’ met with me to review my qualifications and handed me
thirteen books (yes, this was prior to the time when we used computers for
e-books or training), which were referred to as my ‘Modules’. ‘What’, I stated…. ‘I already have an
Associate Degree. I felt for sure that I
had already learned more from my two-year degree program in ECE than I would
ever learn in from a set of training modules.
Boy, was I wrong!
I took my
Modules home and decided to approach the training with an optimistic
mindset. About a year after starting my
training, completing the required observations to demonstrate my competencies,
and passing each assessment, I was awarded my training certificate. I was so proud of this certificate because I
knew that the training I had completed advanced my job qualifications. I actually learned what I needed to so that I
could best support children and their families. What I came to realize is that
CDA Training is actual ‘job training’.
Department of Defense Child Development Program was modeled after the CDA
Credential. Though I am no longer part
of this exemplary worldwide program, the training program I came to love in
1992 became the training program that I would use to develop teachers that I
would work with over the course of my career as a program director. As I advanced to the position of program
administrator in Iceland, then moved on to accept the same position at an
installation in California, then on to Bahrain and eventually to Guam, I knew
that CDA Training was job training.
Whenever I transferred to a new installation, I knew that I and the
teaching team that I worked with would be ‘speaking the same language’. Health and safety requirements, design of
learning environment, understanding of the physical, cognitive, social, and
emotional development of young children was the same. Working with families had the same relevance
from one installation to the next, as did the need for writing effective
classroom observations and continue to develop as professionals in our newly
commitment to quality in child development came with me once I left my work as
a program director in Guam. During my
time as a center director in Connecticut, I continued to use the CDA Training
model as the model of quality for working with new teachers who needed to learn
about developmentally appropriate practices.
So, though I
remain a strong advocate for the advancement of college degrees for teachers in
our field, I remain steadfast in my commitment to promoting the CDA as a
training model. Training on the 13
Functional Areas of the CDA has helped DoD to achieve its goal of high quality
for all children of servicemembers around the world. If DoD can find a way to create a model that
works worldwide, then the model can certainly work for individual states or
programs who may commit to developing their early childhood workforce.
Training, Inc. is a newly accredited training program for child development
that is modeled after the original CDA, similar to the model I experienced as a
teacher when I first worked for DoD. The
training program does not offer one-at-a-time workshops that do not allow for
transfer of learning, but rather, requires participants to advance from one
module to the next by reading, watching videos, participating in discussions,
creating activities related to each of the functional areas, and completing
assessments. The participant that
completes the Atlas Training Program will be knowledgeable of best practices in
early childhood education and will be able to transfer the training to practice.
As I reach
out to facilitate training in an online format for teachers and family
childcare providers, my goal is to continue to develop Atlas Training so that
directors know that when they hire someone to fill a vacant teaching position,
that the applicant is well trained and ready to do the work of teaching and
caring for young children. We hope that
in time, directors will be able to call us and to ask, ‘do you have any
teachers preparing to graduate?”, or ‘I have a new teacher and she needs to
enroll in training’.
If we can
all get on the same page and begin to train teachers, first, when they do not
yet have a college degree, then we can do so much to improve the outcomes that
we all desire in our work with young children.
about Atlas Training? Email us at email@example.com or call (860) 788-3646.
CDA or college? Which is the right path?
As a professor and academic advisor, I often meet with early childhood teachers
to learn about their background and professional goals and tailor their learning plans accordingly. What I have learned throughout my career as an educator is that choosing your education path wisely can make all the difference. But that path looks different for everyone, and different paths address different knowledge and career needs.
For example, while a higher education degree should be a long-term goal for most educators, it is not always the best starting point. It is my view that someone new to the field should not have to wait three semesters to learn about health and safety or child development. These are
skills that matter on the first day of teaching and all teachers should have a foundational understanding of early childhood when they work with children.
State priorities have shifted considerably over the past twenty years, with more
spending devoted to college credits and degree obtainment across most states. For
many teachers, this shift is hugely beneficial, enabling members of the ECE community to advance professionally without absorbing huge costs in a field that does not pay well in the first place.
While I applaud the advocates and political leaders who have worked tirelessly to provide funding for these college programs, I believe that this orientation should be tempered with
caution in the name of practicality. The reality that seems to get overlooked is that college is not necessarily the right choice for every teacher, and even if it IS the right choice, it is not always the best place to start.
Consider, for example, that it can take six or more years for a full-time teacher to earn an associates degree in early childhood. In the mean time, there may be significant attendance gaps - sometimes even years - in which a teacher does not advance. In the intervening
period, the teacher's level on the state's registry may reflect very little in the way of qualifications.
I also challenge the assumption that college is the best educational format for everyone. During my career as a director, I knew MANY teachers who performed exceptional work with children, but who have had difficulty completing college courses for various reasons. Should the quality of these teachers' work be overlooked and undermined by our existing college orientation, or can we, as a field, consider, that alternative pathways, such as the CDA, provide an acceptable level of skills validation?
Another consideration is that some teachers never complete their degrees or, as is becoming increasingly common, they leave the classroom entirely once they do obtain one. This adds additional complexity to the important issue of investment in professional development,
as those who invest in training options must consider the long-term fiscal benefits of degree v college investment.
Thankfully, I believe the field is beginning to return to a more moderate perspective on professional development. CDA credentials are now accepted for college credits, and funding for them continues to grow. While I agree that college coursework contributes to better outcomes for children, I believe that this is not the only path that should be available, and that
entrance into a degree program is not always a logical starting point for entry level teachers.
As you move forward, please take time to reflect on what path is best for you. If you believe that you are ready for a college commitment, we encourage you to begin as soon as possible! If it's the CDA, we hope to see you in our programs, where we believe the CDA is the best place to start!