Every year since 2012 I have presented to early childhood educators on their path to becoming daycare providers at community colleges in Massachusetts.
Why does their professor bring me in every year to speak? It’s because she is aware of the burnout rate among early childhood educators, with nearly 30% leaving the field within the first 5 years of joining. And just think of how hard they hard to work to get there (not to mention maintain their credentials.)
She and I joined forces because we knew how important extra tools are to the longevity of a career in education. We also know how important social-emotional learning, mindfulness, and repetitious flows of yoga can be for young children. We wanted to make the future-educators’ jobs better and we wanted to give them the tools to stay in the field. We also want their students to be equipped with the tools of self-care and mindful breath. It became an obvious union for us to band together to support her students.
As someone that has studied early childhood education for 17 years that also left the formal classroom in 2011, I understand the desire to flee the field. The work is difficult. The requirements for professional development mean spending nights and weekends and MONEY to stay legitimate. The pay isn’t amazing. The children are showing up with more and more sensory and behavioral issues. We know the kids are overstimulated and we are overstimulated. Often times it makes for the underequipped and overstretched leading the over-stimulated and un-prepared.
So how do we equip early childhood educators to care for themselves and to teach the children in their care?
And how do we prepare young children for learning readiness?
And how do we prepare the children with the strategies they need to ask for what they need, and to notice, name, and manage big feelings?
We look to yoga, mindfulness, and activities for social-emotional learning as a synthesis for this.
The structure of social-emotional learning and early childhood routines are PERFECT for integrating the skills of yoga and mindfulness. And if teachers can experience these activities along with their students in a low-pressure way, they gain firsthand experience of how breath, awareness, and slowing down can also help THEM.
What do we present?
The Self-care Balancing Act:
We examine our technology use, eating habits, sleep patterns, and overall activity to check with our own lives and notice what may be out of balance.
We try out breathing, relaxation, and gentle movement practices to have the first-hand experience with self-care.
Integrating yoga and mindfulness into the early childhood day: We practice yoga and mindfulness through an early childhood lens. Incorporating rhythm, rhyme, repetition, animals, storytelling, breath, movement, and SEL, we synthesize the needs of children into single activities. We learn to invoke the feelings, the body, our needs, communication, and help children try it, teach it back, and take ownership.