How to Become a Daycare Educator
By Theodora Evans
There are two types of people in the world: those who are cut out to work with children and those who are not. If you belong to the former category, it might have crossed your mind before that you should choose a career path that will allow these skills of yours to prevail. After all, it can become not only a lucrative but also a very rewarding career choice where you see the new generations grow and develop in front of your eyes. However, it is not easy to become an early childhood educator. Different countries and even different states have different requirements and the job of such a person is undeniably one of the most demanding ones. If you have your mind set on it, however, here is what you have to know with regards to becoming a daycare educator.
The tasks and responsibilities of a daycare educator
An early childhood educator or preschool teacher works with children from ages three to five. Their responsibilities include encouraging the children to be creative and helping them develop a natural inclination to learning, taking care of them throughout the day – this includes their emotional as well as physical needs besides their learning needs – and teaching them the basics of literacy and numeracy while developing their social and motor skills. Daycare educators may work with groups of children or with individuals, or in some cases, they might take care of children with special needs. They may also be in charge of reporting to parents about each child’s progress, devising programs and activities, and all in all, pay attention to the children and deal with any behavioral problems that may arise.
The necessary set of qualities and skills
As we mentioned in the beginning, becoming an early childhood educator is not for everyone. Considering you will be working with small children, you can be prepared that it is very tiring as well as mentally and physically demanding. There are going to be situations where a great deal of patience is going to be required of you, so if you’re generally not a patient person, think about whether this is for you. Preschool teachers also need to be rather creative and organized, because as previously mentioned, they might be required to come up with and organize activities. In addition, since daycare educators actively work together with other daycare educators and the parents of the children, great social skills are quite an essential requirement as well. There is no doubt, therefore, that this job is quite demanding and stressful one, however, a very rewarding one at the same time.
The prerequisites for working as a preschool teacher
The exact qualifications you need to become a preschool teacher will vary depending on your country, region, and even on the particular institution that you are planning on applying to. At the very minimum, a high school diploma is enough in some places. Some preschools prefer applicants who have completed post-secondary classes in this field. However, specific certification or tertiary education is preferred in most settings – and even required. You can also obtain the necessary qualifications by taking a course in early childhood education that will prepare you for anything that may come your way.
The steps following obtaining your qualifications also vary depending on where you want to work. While in the US, most states require you to pass three Praxis tests and apply for teacher certification – alongside with a criminal check, in Australia, registration or accreditation is required in most places, in addition to a “Working with Children Check”. All in all, you need to focus your research on your particular country and city in order to get the most accurate information in this regard.
There are other prerequisites for working with children as well, which can also be location-specific. Oftentimes, in order to work in child care, you will also need to complete first aid training. Furthermore, while this is of course not obligatory, if you are serious about your job as a daycare educator and want to constantly learn and improve, participating in different workshops from time to time will help you expand your knowledge and meet fellow professionals in the field. In addition, more often than not, you’re going to need prior experience in order to actually start working in daycare education, so it’s worth being active in the daycare educator community and taking every chance you get to work on yourself and your skills.
Career options in daycare
The most straightforward career path for preschool educators is that in public or private schools. Entry level usually involves a teacher’s aide or assistant teacher’s positions. However, that is not the only option you have. For instance, there is also the option of working in child home centers or even becoming a child care center director whose job entails less of directly working with children and more of managing and coordinating the rest of the preschool teachers and supervising the center as well as the children. Becoming a home-based service provider who works with children in their own home is a great option for those who have ambitions in entrepreneurship, but other positions such as consultant or family support specialist are also valid career options. Moreover, if you think you are cut out for it, you can also work with children with disabilities. The room for advancement varies across these aforementioned positions, so depending on what direction you want your career to evolve, take that aspect into account too when choosing your workplace.
As you can see, the road to becoming a daycare educator is not an easy one, but if you think this is what you were born to do, there is nothing standing in your way. Research the requirements of your particular country or state and start working on that certification as soon as possible!