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"I had no idea". The story no one's telling about early childhood educators in Australia.

My son started preschool this year.

The night before his first day, I cried.

I stayed awake until after midnight, labelling his clothes and preparing his lunch box and – for reasons I still don’t entirely understand, ironing his jean shorts.

I dropped him off in the morning, leaving him in the care of four adults who were essentially strangers to me, and I crossed my fingers and toes that these people would support, nurture and guide him through this enormous transition.

… but if I’m honest, I didn’t really think they would.

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I didn’t think they’d have the time, interest or energy to offer him much more than the most basic level of attention.

I was terrified that I had left him to fend for himself, abandoned him to a wild world of children who did not have the skills or impulse control to handle the social environment in which they had been placed; wildly outnumbering a handful of Educators who were too overworked, underpaid and exhausted to care.

I did not imagine there would be the caring, guiding adult presence he was used to, and I spent that first day, sitting alone at home, sobbing hysterically and wondering what I had done.

When I sprinted through the gates to pick him up that afternoon, he greeted me with an enormous smile on his face.

He’d had a great day.

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And the next morning when we returned, he ran straight into the arms of one of his Educators and snuggled into her lap.

He had not been abandoned.

He was being nurtured, he was being supported, by people who were invested in his wellbeing and his development.

I had no idea.

I had not realised anything at all about the level of skill these Educators possessed, of just how much specialised knowledge they had.

I had not known of the passion, the commitment, the dedication; the desire to strive above and beyond and the lengths his teachers would go to in their efforts to achieve individualised, holistic care for the young people they work with.

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I am not alone in my lack of awareness around just how much goes into the job of educating and caring for small children.

As a society, we do not value this powerful, incredibly important work enough.

When I sent my son off for that first day, I assumed that the people responsible for him would tend to his needs as warranted by their job description; but that was it.

I expected they would deliver the bare minimum – because culturally, that is the message we are sending.

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"He was being nurtured, he was being supported, by people who were invested in his wellbeing and his development." Image: Getty.

We often believe that the people we are entrusting the care of our children to, are relatively uninterested and unengaged babysitters.

Or, we expect them to fill every role imaginable - parent, teacher, nurse, playmate; without thinking for one moment just how much is involved in doing that, and how worthy of recognition it is.

We tell them this, too.

We tell them how little we value them.

We tell them, by refusing to support or advocate for them as they fight for their right to receive a wage reflective of their skills and expertise.

We tell them, when we refuse to acknowledge their recommendations that our child may be displaying signs of requiring some additional intervention or support.

We tell them, when we do not acknowledge the enormous workload they take on each day.

These are the people that are listening to our children each day, identifying their interests, building programs to support those interests and ensuring that every individual child is receiving a care experience unique to their own needs and development.

And we do not see them.

I recently joined a Facebook group specifically for Early Childhood Educators, in the hopes of gaining an insight into the industry and the people it was made up of.

What I read, as I explored their comments and posts, blew me away.

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These are highly skilled, incredibly qualified, compassionate people.

They are doing an essentially thankless job yet they continue to strive to do better, to provide the best possible experience for the children in their care.

Late one night, after reading yet another powerful post from members of this incredible group, I decided to pop a post up of my own.

Just to say thank you, for being the people they are and for doing what they do.

The post went crazy.

Within 24 hours, there were more than 2500 likes, comments and shares.

It turns out, that we as parents, have forgotten to give any acknowledgement or gratitude to the people who are helping to raise our children.

We haven’t educated ourselves around what is involved in their roles, so we don’t fully appreciate the skills, expertise and level of commitment that is required in their roles.

It’s time to change the way we view early childhood educators.

We need to value the care and education they are providing our children and recognise their endless dedication to their growth and development.

We need to stand with them as they fight for recognition and fair conditions.

We need to support the people, who are supporting us.

And the very least, we need to take notice of exactly what it is they are doing for us, our children and our families each and every day - and say thank you.

Samantha Johnson is a mother, a writer and fan of facts, fiction, feminism and families. Share in her stories at her Facebook page, Samantha Johnson Storyteller.

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