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Are Titles Important?


Tuesday 25 July 2017

Our name defines us. It is one of the first things that people learn about us and so this important piece of information forms the basis of the earliest judgements that people will make about us. The same is true of our professional title. How we name our profession will instantly lead to judgements relating to the value of our work.

For many years we have identified with a myriad of titles. We are Childcare Workers, Early Years Educators, Early Childhood Practitioners, Early Years Teachers and a mix match of each of these. We choose our title based on what our colleagues are called and also by how we self-identify. Many wish to hold on to the word ‘care’ in their title because they recognise that it is central to their work with children. Others emphasise the education element because they recognise the importance of their work and want others, outside of their profession, to recognise and respect it too.

As proud professionals we seek a title that reflects our knowledge and expertise and the importance of the contribution that we make in the lives of children during their foundation years. Professional titles are valued in our society so we need to balance our self-identity with one that resonates with those outside our profession.

The children we work with, very often copy their older siblings and, call us their teacher. Parents encourage the children to ‘say thank you to your teacher’. Yet many in our profession shy away from using the word teacher because they see it as being too academic and devoid of caring. The reality is that we create the meaning of the word in the context of our profession. When we call ourselves Early Years Teachers we identify as someone who supports young children in all areas of development through their natural medium of learning i.e. play.

Titles confer symbolic power. By adopting a professional title we are taking a step towards claiming the status and respect that is due to the work we do and to the children we work with. Choosing a title that resonates with those outside our profession makes sense because it allows them to see that our work is much more then ‘babysitting’. As Early Years Teachers we observe the children we work with, and through our knowledge(s), practices and values, we support them to engage with their emerging interests in a caring and nurturing manner. We develop strong relationships with children as we interact with them in a multitude of ways: changing nappies; engaging in creative arts; managing cuts and bruises; supporting conflict resolution; playing games; supporting recognition and naming of feelings; singing songs; going on nature walks; encouraging self-feeding; building dens; supporting integration into peer group; trying new things; drying tears; playing hide-and-seek; giving hugs; playing with loose parts; chatting; conducting experiments; telling stories; exploring; etc. The list is endless.

As Early Years Teachers we are supporting children emotionally and socially. We also nurture their cognitive, spiritual, communicative, physical, adaptive and cultural development. We tend to the whole child.

It is important to recognise that this professional title is distinct from the job titles that we hold in our individual centres. These are still needed so that we can differentiate between the various roles in early years settings e.g. manager, room leader, playgroup assistant, nursery nurse, team leader, childcare worker, playgroup leader, supervisor, stiúrthóir naíonra, practitioner, educator, Montessori teacher, etc. However, a professional title is unifying and provides us with a common identity separate to the position we hold within our early years setting. A united professional identity is one that parents, policy makers and society can understand and value. Hopefully this will allow us to move on from the usual response we get when we tell people what we do – you know the one – the tilt of the head followed by Ah!

So let us firmly claim our space at the foundation stage of the care and education continuum and declare that as Early Years Teachers we provide vital care and support for children from their first year of life until they transition to primary school.



Following almost 20 years working as an Early Years Teacher, Marian Quinn is now lecturing on both the BA in Early Childhood Education and Care and the BA in Montessori Education degree programmes at Cork Institute of Technology. In her spare time she is Chairperson of the Association of Childhood Professionals where she advocates for increased recognition, respect and remuneration for the early childhood education and care profession.

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Teresa Duffy says:

    I agree wholeheartedly Marian !, early years teachers hold degrees, usually a wealth of experience and always a commitment to nurture a love of learning in all children !

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