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Thank You, Thank You, Child-Care Workers

Tyee readers share gratitude for those who cared for their kids during the pandemic: ‘You are a gift to us all.’

Jenessa Joy Klukas 23 Jun 2021 | TheTyee.ca

Jenessa Joy Klukas is an Indigenous woman of Xaxli’p and Métis descent. She grew up on the land of the Haisla Nation in Kitimat. She recently interned through the Journalists for Human Rights’ Indigenous Reporters Program.

The act of taking care of children is an invaluable, essential service that supports families across B.C. But the job can take a toll, especially during a relentless global crisis like a pandemic.

In April, after I wrote a Tyee story about my experience burning out as a child-care worker, many fellow workers reached out to say they felt similarly.

Working in early childhood education can be thankless, and it’s easy to feel underappreciated, underpaid and overworked. So The Tyee asked parents to submit their positive child-care stories and encouragement to workers — and the result warmed our hearts. Submissions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

So from me to you, fellow early childhood educators: thank you for your hard work, compassion, patience, and everything you do for children.

‘She was completely selfless’
Submitted by Laura P.

My son has been attending daycare at Fernwood Community Centre through the entire pandemic. Staff have gone above and beyond every single day by providing an amazing service while continuing to place themselves and their families at risk.

One example is from my son’s second birthday last year on April 24. There were only two staff working, and four children attending at the time. We were all essential workers feeling overwhelmed by the growing pandemic. There was so much uncertainty in the world, and we were all feeling vulnerable.

One of my son’s workers, Chiai, insisted that we still have a party and celebration for my son. She created a “rice-cake” with a candle and made a beautiful card for him. She knew that there were so many other staff who wanted to celebrate and sign his card.

Chiai took it upon herself to drive to each worker’s house, drop off the card, stay distant and have them sign it. She went to approximately 10 different houses, and this card has been so precious to me. I will keep it forever. She was completely selfless in this act in trying to show love and appreciation for my boy. She took his pictures and added them to my card too.

Chiai became pregnant shortly after this time with her first child. She is off now on her maternity leave, and we can’t wait for her to come back. She is a prime example of selfless love and we are so lucky to have everyone there at the Fernwood team. We are so thankful.

‘The impact they have is life-lasting’
Submitted by Keira M.

My gratitude for the people who care for and educate my children on a daily basis runs deep. The profound impact they have on my children’s well-being is something I see daily. My one-year-old son, who only just recently started daycare, now squeals as we approach the gate each morning and eagerly reaches for his favourite teacher as soon as he sees her.

My three-year-old daughter is confident at daycare and as such has developed a healthy sense of self and is quite content playing quietly by herself. Each weekend, after a week of daycare is done, I frequently find her playing “school” in her room and pretending to be one of her teachers while her dolls are the daycare kids. I can’t think of a more telling example of the impact her teachers have had on her than wanting to be just like them.

The days are long, the job is often hard and usually thankless, and I can completely understand why early childhood educator burnout is the “norm” and not the exception. But whether an early childhood educator teaches and cares for children for only a year or two or chooses to make a lifelong career out of it, the impact they have is life-lasting for these children.

‘I’m actually sad to pull her out of care’
Submitted by Kaitlyn Kauppinen

I love the early childhood educators at my daughters’ daycare. The ladies in the infant room (Raman, Whisper & Neelam) are amazing. From sharing with us as parents about what she’s learning, to being open with communication regarding her care, it has been exceptional.

The main story that stands out to me is when Lauren (my 21-month-old) was walking into daycare and ran to one of her teachers to give her a hug and said, “I love you.” The teacher then shared about how developed and smart Lauren was, and about how Lauren likes to sing before she eats her lunch and snack and wants to tell everyone stories, even though she can’t quite talk great yet.

I have so much appreciation for her teachers. I’m actually sad to pull her out of care when I have another baby in two weeks.

‘You are a gift to us all’
Submitted by Darcy Morgan

Our little one was on waitlists for child care all over the city even before her birth, but we struggled to secure a space for her in care. Through this tumultuous period, we were supported by her Naanii/grandmother — who came from the Island — a shared nanny educator, and a two-morning-a-week space at a Reggio-based preschool.

Finally, in the summer of her third year around the sun we received a call that brings up tears even now as I recall it. It was as if our family had won the lottery! We were offered a full-time space at a local neighbourhood house in East Vancouver. I both laughed and cried through the “YES, we will take the spot” phone call and was certain the manager was concerned for my well-being. It was only after getting off the phone that I realized how heavy the weight of finding quality, affordable and accessible care was for me.

That was two years ago. Since then, our little one has been nurtured in ways that I hope for all children. As an example, recently she arrived at the centre and noticed she was missing her beaded bracelet that she was proud to be wearing to school. One of the educators called to see if perhaps it was in the car and I suggested checking her coat. A text came to say nope, it was not in the coat. Before I could make it home to check the back seat, another text came through that they decided to make another one. Then a photo of my beaming child came through, showing me the newly made bracelet (and yes, the original one was safely in the back seat of the car).

This is one example of the thoughtful care and nurturing that my child and 20-plus other children receive at the centre. Hawaa/Thank you to the staff who make this centre a community for our children. We are going to miss everyone who is part of this community, yet we will carry you in our hearts as we continue on in our journey.

As an early childhood educator myself, I have seen positive shifts in early care and learning over the last few decades. We are working towards a more comprehensive system that better supports families while seeing the whole child. If you are considering diving into this sector, know that it is full of wonder and better days are ahead of us, with municipal, provincial and federal governments aiming to work together to provide universal child care. If you are currently in the sector, thank you for your willingness to work with our most precious gifts. You are a gift to us all.

When our little ones feel loved up and have a sense of belonging, we know that is the foundation for all learning. As author Monique Gray Smith says, “Fill the room with love.”  [Tyee]

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