This is a series of blogs featuring first-person accounts from early educators across Massachusetts.
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My name is Lisa Crowley, and I work at Horizons for Homeless Children in Roxbury, Mass., where I am a full-time preschool teacher. I also work part-time at a Walgreens Pharmacy.
I have been in early education and care for 11 years. I started my career as an integrating aide for an autistic child at a Head Start program. The following school year, I became an assistant teacher at the same Head Start program. In 2011, I began my journey at Horizons for Homeless Children.
What’s important about my work is helping homeless children who have experienced trauma. I help them by teaching social-emotional skills, self-help skills, and independence.
As an educator, I am most proud of learning and working with children who have sensory needs and challenging behaviors. I work with these children one-on-one and figure out what their needs are to help them grow and learn like most children their age.
As an example, I am currently teaching a child who has sensory needs and who uses self-injury as a coping skill. I have tried many different strategies with him this past year to reduce the self-injury, and to use different sensory tools to help him cope with frustration, sadness and anger.
As a result of being very patient with these behaviors and tendencies, going to look for resources on my own on how to work with children that are similar to him, and lots of communication with his parents, I am so excited to say that he has less tendency to self injure. I also introduced a “Nubby,” an oral sensory tool that he named, to his sensory diet, and it helps him with the strong emotions that he has a hard time expressing. For example, this child becomes very upset if he cannot be at the water table because it already has the four children who are allowed in the area. This recently happened, and generally he would bite himself or smack his forehead, a peer noticed that he was upset and said “I’ll get you nubby.” He and the peer both went to his cubby to retrieve the nubby. And he bit on it and did not show any further distress and did not self-injure.
I went back to school in 2005 and received my associates degree at Urban College of Boston. It took me six years to receive my CDA and associate degree, as I am a single mother of two children. I am currently enrolled at Cambridge College, and I will finish my bachelor’s degree next summer.
Being an early childhood educator is very demanding work. We teach different populations and meet the special needs and emotional needs of all the children that we work with. It becomes even more demanding because most educators in this field are single parents who are still in school and paying off student loans at a very slow pace because our salaries don’t stretch far enough to pay them off more quickly.