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The Value of Being Valued

"What you are planning to do tomorrow, do today; what you are going to do today, do right now." —Indian proverb


When we write and speak to those outside our profession, we often wax poetic about the extreme importance of early childhood education. However, in our daily work we tend to take the importance of our accomplishments for granted. Parents appreciate the great work their teachers do, but do they ever express this appreciation to the teachers? Family child care providers dedicate their lives to their work, but who notices their contributions? Center administrators perform miracles keeping their programs afloat, but who ever comments on their work? Early childhood professors and trainers work with commitment and creativity, but who thanks them?

In How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001;, Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey remind us of the importance of valuing our work:

"We all do better at work if we regularly have the experience that what we do matters, that it is valuable, and that our presence makes a difference to others. We may know in our hearts that what we do matters, but it is certainly confirming to hear the words from others. We do not, after all, work and live in a vacuum. Believing that what we do and how we do it makes a difference can also lead us to take additional care in performing our work.

"Perhaps more important, hearing that our work is valued by others can confirm for us that we matter as a person. It connects us to other people. This is no small matter in organizations where the pace and intensity of work can lead a person to feel isolated. This sense that we signify may be one of our deepest hungers. One way we experience that what we are doing at work is valuable is by hearing regularly from others how they value what we do."

For additional thoughts on motivating staff, check out the Exchange book, Staff Challenges at

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