With the ongoing debates about teachers unions, standardized testing, and higher education, it can be easy to forget about the importance of early childhoodearly childhood education education. However, the preschool years are the most important years of cognitive development for children, and will shape the rest of their educational experience—and their adult lives!

Although pre-school and elementary school teachers are often underappreciated, they’re some of the most valuable people in our country. We need excellent early childhood teachers to help strengthen our overall education system, so if you’re already considering going into a teaching career, you may want to give some thought to working with this young age group. Here are some reasons why you should study early childhood education.

You will learn how to work with different age groups. Early childhood education teachers typically learn to work with students who are anywhere from 2 or 3 (pre-kindergarten) to 8 or 9 (third grade). That’s obviously a huge age range, and each different grade level has its own unique challenges and fun moments. By studying early childhood education, you’ll open up teaching opportunities within a number of different grades so that you can figure out what age group you most want to work with. Plus, it will also mean you’re qualified for more teaching jobs, which in this economy is an incredibly important thing!

You can earn additional teaching certifications. Studying early childhood is a great foundation if you want to work in a specific area that you’re passionate about, like special education. By majoring in early childhood education and then earning an additional certification, you’ll open up even more job opportunities.

You get to be a part of important developmental moments. The human brain actually grows the most during a child’s first three years, and important nerve connection pruning begins when children are just 12 months old. Young children need proper stimulation to begin developing important real-world skills like problem solving, and as an early childhood educator, you can help them grow and reach these important milestones. While you’re earning your degree, you’ll take classes that will teach you about cognitive development so that you know how best to work with children at different ages.

You can help children develop essential behavioral traits. In addition to promoting cognitive development, early childhood education also helps students develop necessary behavioral traits like sociability, motivation, and self-esteem. Preschool is one of the first opportunities for many children to interact with other kids their age on a regular basis, as well as adults other than their parents. If you work in early childhood education, you’ll be helping your students develop the personal and interpersonal skills that are necessary to live a happy and healthy adult life.

You can get creative with your lessons…instead of sitting behind a desk. Children under the age of 5 don’t respond very well to long lectures or textbook reading sessions, so as an early childhood educator, you’ll get to lead kids through a lot of hands-on lessons. For example, instead of just expecting students to memorize the alphabet, you might use toys like a plastic apple to represent different letters and sounds. You may also have the opportunity to take students on field trips to places like farms or children’s museums to help them gain valuable life experiences. And while you’re still in school, you’ll likely have plenty of opportunities to leave your own college classroom and visit pre-school or elementary school classes to get practical experience.

You will become an important community member. You may think that an early childhood educator just works with kids all day, but you’ll also interact with your student’s parents and various community members who can help connect you to important educational resources. If the program you work for is a non-profit, you may also spend time soliciting donations from community leaders.

You will become an education advocate. If you think that the education system in our country needs reforming, then studying and working in early childhood education may be the right path for you. One major problem that’s been getting a lot of attention lately is the early educational gap between more privileged students whose parents can pay for them to go to preschool and lower-income students who simply go directly into public school when they are five. If you want to make a direct change, studying early childhood education will position you to work for a non-profit preschool—or maybe even start your own—to give lower-income students more opportunities. With your background in cognitive development and the American education system, you can become a vocal authority in your field and start educational reform efforts for our youngest students.

Juliana Weiss-Roessler enjoys writes about the benefits of educational programs For Kendall College.  Follow her on TwitterGoogle+, and Facebook.


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