Written by Courtney Smith
How to get off to a great start in your career as an Early Childhood Educator
A new early childhood teaching role can be overwhelming. The real world contains many challenges that seem different from when studying early childhood education and care. The good news is that some handy practices are available to make those first days and weeks of working easier for a new early childhood educator.
Adding to the play
As you implement your programme for children, your role changes over the day from leader to learner, and from participant to facilitator. The strategies you use to reach individual children may also change as you begin to see where each child needs you in their learning journey.
Think back to the teaching strategies you have used in your work with children and consider the balance you can strike between being:
- a participant and contributor
- an observer and a director
- a facilitator and a scaffolder.
Think about the times you’ve been intentional (a director) as a new early childhood teacher. How have you facilitated children’s play lately? How does your practice inform children’s learning within the curriculum areas of identity, community, wellbeing, learning and communication?
If you’re involved in children’s play but not sure how you are adding to it, remove yourself from it and reassess their play from afar.
Getting down to the child’s level
Bobbing down when speaking with young children is a respectful practice that helps break down the barriers between “teacher” and “child”. When you bob down to a child’s level, you are showing them that their voice matters and that you value them. It is also an implicit acknowledgement that you are a participant in the community of learners your room creates.
When speaking with children, it is important to really listen to what children are telling you. After a long day in your room, it can be easy to slip away from actively listening to children’s remarks.
Feeding back what children are saying to you is an effective way to make sure you are actively listening to children during the day. It also gives you a chance to clarify ideas and help children articulate their thinking in new ways as they grow and develop.
If you are asking children to listen and “tune in” to you during group times, you will need to model this practice to them through your consistent interactions in the room.
A big reason why educators may not actively listen to their children in their room is that they are not fully present. Sometimes home pressures, stress and fatigue can work against educators. They can make it more difficult to focus on children’s learning and carry out the learning programme. Think about the way you work under stress or when tired. How does it influence your presence in the room?
Because being consistent in your practice is so important. Think ahead to ways you might be able to mitigate these pressures or leave them at the door before you start your working day.
Children deserve to have a consistent, present educator working with them each day. With a bit of preventative action, you can be that educator for the children in your room.
As you work with children in the early years, consistency in your practice is paramount. Children are relying on you to be a dependable source of comfort. Someone who they can return to when they need to recharge their socio-emotional batteries. Children who experience a consistent, calm educator are able to take greater risks in play and experiment in their room with confidence. To offer this consistency, you will need to think about how you maintain your composure across the day.
An early childhood educator’s interaction with children has an enormous impact on young lives and early learning. Never underestimate the influence you and your team can have on the way children learn and behave. Through your work, you can support children while they form a love of learning and you can foster a growing socio-emotional stamina.
This article is based on content from the popular text Help! I’ve just started teaching by Julia Gray.
This resource is a support guide for new early childhood educators, providing practical advice and guidance that supports contextual experience. It draws on the expertise of practising teachers and can be used as a reference tool to support students’ context and practice.