Working in childcare can be tough, and is a lot different than some people think. I am going to talk about two different expectations people may have about working in childcare and their realities. I have personally had people ask me what I do and then respond with, “Oh it must be fun to play all day” or “Wow, that must be really good birth control”. I usually respond to things like this with awkward laughter, because I don’t want to get into how off base and incorrect those statements are. Even if you don’t work in childcare, or aren’t considering it as a career path this is great information to know as a parent. I think that it’s too often that people think early childhood teachers are “glorified babysitters”, and I would like to try to change that.
EXPECTATION: “I’m going to get to play all day”
REALITY: Yes, playing with children is a big part of the job. But no, it doesn’t end there. Whether you’re a nanny or a teacher you have obligations beyond just “playing”. If you haven’t already, check out my blog post about being a nanny vs. working in a childcare center. There you can find distinct differences between the two, and what goes along with them. Here’s a list of some of the other responsibilities that go with working in a childcare center:
- It is important to have knowledge of child development and teaching techniques, which usually requires schooling. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education, and took quite a few classes on child development. I think this has helped my work so much, and I implement things I learned in school everyday.
- Lesson planning – nope, it’s not just for school teachers! Early childhood teachers have to plan ahead. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds because you have to consider developmental milestones, make goals and know why each activity is beneficial in a child’s growth and development.
- Preparation is required for a lot of things. Teachers have to cut out time to prep for daily activities. Field trips also take a lot of preparation because you must have a set plan, have each families permission (in a lot of cases) and so much more!
- Assessments and observations are something a lot of people don’t think of. Teachers are constantly observing the children in their classroom and assessing developmental milestones. From these observations, teachers create individual goals for children which are implemented through activities.
- Communication is a big thing! Teachers are communicating everyday with their co-teachers, each child’s parents and program directors. This is something that can be hard at first, but gets easier over time. I learned to really enjoy the conversations I had each evening as parents picked up their children.
- Ongoing trainings: In the center I worked in we had teacher workshop days. On these days we would get the chance to do a deep cleaning of our classrooms, but also did different trainings. For example we did CPR/First Aid (which is required), but we also did trainings on conscious discipline and even went to a local library to learn more about early literacy. A teacher is constantly learning!
EXPECTATION: “It’s not like teaching elementary school”
REALITY: I haven’t taught in an elementary school but from what I gather, it is and isn’t similar. Although you don’t do standardized tests etc, in a childcare center, you still do lesson planning and observations. Another similarity is parent – teacher conferences, not all centers do this but some do. While elementary school teachers focus more on the academics, early childhood educators focus on each child’s development. For example, early childhood educators take into consideration each child’s cognitive, physical, social, emotional and language areas of development. Being an early childhood educator is a lot of hard work, and in my opinion should be valued as much as teachers in elementary school.
I am so proud to be in the early childhood education field because it is so rewarding to see children grow, change and learn! The importance of the first 5 years of a child’s life are the most important, and to be a part of shaping those 5 years is so special. Early childhood teachers are a big influence on a child’s development, and can impact each child in such a positive way. I love what I do!