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Early Childhood Educator 101

Picture of Angeline Neville
Angeline Neville

Angeline Neville has over 17 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education sector. In addition to her work in education, she has worked in film, TV and theatre and has released two original albums.

So, you’re an Early Childhood Educator. Excellent choice! You can look forward to one of the most rewarding and satisfying jobs that anyone can ask for… 

Hang on, JOB?

What do you mean, job? I want a career in Education! I want to make a difference in children’s lives! 

Trust me, you will, but it is a job and it requires a lot of work to allow the magic to happen.

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Friendliness and a smile are a great start to the day.

When you arrive at a centre, be friendly, courteous and show enthusiasm.  Even if you’re shy by nature, try and overcome this as much as you can. Introduce yourself, listen to any instructions or inductions and ask questions!  Show that you’re aware of the things that are required of you. Have you been shown where the fire exits are? Has someone given you the centre’s philosophy to read? This might seem unnecessary if you’re just doing a casual shift, but a centre’s philosophy can give you a really great insight into the culture of the people in the building.

As the morning progresses and more (permanent) Educators start their shifts, pick an appropriate moment and introduce yourself to them too. If people forget your name, don’t take it to heart, you might be the tenth casual educator the centre has employed that month.Try to make sure you’re the last. 

Make sure you show that you want to be there.
Be the professional that you are.

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Early Childhood Education relies on Educators who are able to work in a team.

Most Early Childhood services work in ‘rooms’ or age groupings and because we have legislation to regulate our industry – such as ratios – rooms need more than one Educator to meet these ratios. Once you have more than one Educator in a room, you have a ‘team’.

Working in a team – especially as a casual Educator – means doing the ‘menial’ tasks like tidying up and packing away – without having to be asked.

A great team member can look ahead and predict or ‘see’ what jobs need to be done, before they’ve been told to do so.

Another excellent approach is to ask!

What would you like me to do?  What is the routine? 

Teamwork is being able to understand and to contribute to how the ‘team’ operates, without having to be asked. If you can do this, trust me, you will be noticed.

Educators who demonstrate these abilities with a humble attitude and grace are noticed, respected and always called back. 

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Remember why you are there and why you studied
Early Childhood Education.

The children.  I’ll say it again, the children.  Not the pay, not the rewards, not the accolades, not the conditions; the children. Get down to their level.  Interact. Engage.  Listen. Don’t just stand and supervise. You trained and studied to be an Educator, not a supervisor. 

Listen, listen, listen! Watch and observe the relationships the children have with each other. Observe the dynamics of the group.

Watch the other (permanent) Educators; what behavior are they ‘stopping’? What behavior are they encouraging? When are they ‘intervening’ in the children’s disagreements and when are they allowing the children to work things out – within reason of course – for themselves. If you’re not sure again, ask. What should I do when this happens? What would you like me to do in this situation? 

But also remember, there are good and bad times to ask these questions. 

‘Read’ the situation. Choose appropriate moments. Most Educators will be more than happy to help you learn and develop your skills.

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Children are people too

Give them time. Little people take longer to process things than we do. If you ask them a question, give them time to think about what you’ve asked them and then give them time to answer. Don’t assume they haven’t heard you or have ignored you. Gently ask again. If they are obviously ignoring you or defying your request (because you’re a new face) ask a permanent Educator to help. As long as you’ve tried, that’s all that matters. 

Be aware of how many children you are engaging with (#ratios) or are surrounded by. If one child is taking up too much of your attention, invite other children to join you or stand up and move to a position where more children are playing – and invite your new friend to join you.

Never and I mean never grab children by the wrist to get them to go somewhere. Offer your hand to hold, allow them time to decide whether they want to, and if they don’t, that’s okay. Use your powers of persuasion to get them to walk alongside you. Different children require differing levels of trust just like us. Grabbing anyone by the wrist is never ok.

Our job as Educators is to educate, care & guide the behaviours of the children in our care.

Not to control them because it makes our job easier. Respect all children as you would like to be respected yourself.

After your shift

When it comes to the end of the day and you had a good time and would like to come back to the Centre, speak up! Share a nice moment or something you learnt during your shift that reinforces your engagement with your work. Let the Centre director or room leader know that you really liked working with them and would love to come back in the future.

If you followed the advice in this article and always work to the best of your abilities, you have a very good chance of being invited back.

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