One of the original childcare educators, Gitane Lemay1 has seen an evolution in her field. Working in a childcare centre since 1988, she is well positioned to describe the changes.
Over the last five years, the idea of free play has grown. “My role is to enrich the activities of the children, not to impose strict standards. It’s an important change compared with how things were done ten years or so ago,” she says.
One of the main triggers for her occurred on a day when the children took all of the toys out. They were laughing and inventing their own games. At the time, Gitane Lemay intervened and ended the activity.
“When I arrived home that evening, I questioned my actions. Why did I stop the activity when they were having so much fun? The next day, I let them take all of the toys out again, as long as they put them all away after,” she says.
Despite technological advances, electronic devices are rarely used at the CPE Ribambelle. “Sometimes we use them for sciences, but that’s all. They have plenty at home. Childcare centres are designed for play.”
Over the years, electronic feedback tools for parents have been developed. However, she feels it’s never as effective as direct contact.
Challenges for the future
The profession of childcare worker is extremely demanding, both physically and emotionally. For Gitane Lemay, it’s a true vocation.
“It’s important that young women coming out of school understand what they’re getting themselves into. There are a lot of controls and many of our pedagogical resources have been cut in recent years.”
Gitane Lemay will be retiring in June. She remembers a time when educators were in charge of the educational service.
“Back then, we would sit together and review the profits. We would then look at the possibility of increasing our salaries. We built childcare centres from the bottom up, completely on our own. Today, we work in a contract environment. It’s very different,” she says.
1 Gitane Lemay is a member of the Syndicat des intervenantes en petite enfance de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue.