How do you know if early childhood education is the right place for you?
We all have bad days. We all have days where the idea of getting up and going to work is enough to put us in a bad mood. But these days should be the exception to the rule.
I am so fortunate to do the work that I do now, and something that I love is visiting services and observing practice. I love having a bunch of children ask "what are you doing?" and I love hearing their conversations and delighting in their play. I also love when I encounter - which for the the most part, I do - educators who truly LOVE what they do. These are the educators who light up when a child throws their arms around their neck, or who get excited at the sight of a birds nest that someone has bought in - their mind racing at all of the possibilities for exploration!
But then - thankfully only sometimes - I encounter educators who appear to not really want to be there. Yes, they could well be having one of those bad days, but unfortunately that doesn't always seem to be the case. They are short and snappy with the children, roll their eyes at their wild requests, and seem to prefer chatting to other educators than anything else.
At times like this, the question I ask is... why are they here?
Is it for the high wages? I would suggest not, given that we remain an underpaid sector.
Is it for the glory? Again, no. No-one is organising a parade for educators down the main street.
When I first became a nominated supervisor, I was still working on the checkouts at a supermarket at night. I kept that job for a while because it helped pay the mortgage. I was earning more scanning groceries than I was managing a service and caring for the wellbeing and education of people's children. But, I LOVED what I did (the nominated supervisor part... not the supermarket!) and I knew in my soul that it was where I was supposed to be.
But how did I know? Well here's just a few things:
- I lit up. When I arrived at the service, the buzz of children playing and the thought of what exciting, unpredictable things might happen that day, just lit me up.
- I felt like there was always something new to learn.
- I was focused on the children - fascinated by the way that they saw the world.
- I didn't clock-watch. I often finished a little late, or came back from lunch early because there was something happening that I didn't want to miss.
- I felt like I was contributing to something.
Working in early childhood education is not for the faint-hearted. It can be tiring both physically and mentally, and much of what we do is repetitive by nature. And it's worth acknowledging that in recent years it has become more challenging due to educator shortages and a global pandemic. But when you are in the right place, it is incredible - for the most part. Again, you won't love every minute of every day, but if the work you are doing isn't making you light up... you could be in the wrong place. You could be in the wrong early childhood environment (we've got tips on finding the right one HERE) OR you could be in the wrong profession altogether.
Children deserve educators who want to be here. They deserve educators who love to listen to their stories, and dig in the dirt, and won't roll their eyes or discount their opinions.