Coming into this field I had zero experience. I gave the run of the mill response during my interview of “I love kids, and I was a babysitter in high school, and I took care of my younger siblings”. None of that, I repeat, none of that, prepares you for the demands of early childhood.
Here I am seven years later, and I know I still have so much to learn. With that being said, the first day on the job I fell in love. It was there. My passion. If it doesn’t click early on, it’s not going to. Early childhood requires crazy passion. You’re in for 5 days a week (52 weeks out of the year; no summer and winter breaks like primary school) that are DEMANDING all day long. You will do much more work than you are paid for all while using all your imaginary arms and brain cells constantly. When people hear that you are in the field, they say “awe, that’s so sweet”.
They have no clue!
You may have just said early child hood was your career. But under that umbrella is pretty much every other job in the world. You’re teaching every subject, being a nurse, a parent, a plumber, handyman, waitress, hairdresser, counselor, librarian, and the list just goes on. Oh and no one can warn you enough about all the bodily fluids you’ll come into contact with!
This field is not for the faint of heart. Some days you will come home, and literally have nothing left to give anyone else. It is a mentally exhausting job. But again, if it’s your passion you find a way without thinking much about it most days. You must know how to refill your own cup every week to keep going. I think all adults could benefit from remembering to fill their own cups first.
You get this picture in your mind of spending days making play-doh or playing with glue like the teacher in Billy Madison. You think it’s about putting together cute bulletin boards, and smiling at children who are smiling back. Yes, you will do these things, BUT not every day, and not the way you imagined it at all.
Your hair will be a mess, sometimes you will be sweating, you will get those various bodily fluids on you, and someone really should have warned that you should keep extra clothes at work. It’s almost like you’re really the child and should have a cubbie with extra clothes and a comfort blanket…
No one ever prepared me for how many damn times I would be washing my hands every hour. Lotions and manicures will become your best friend. (By the way, if any parent is reading this feel free to send in lotion or a manicure gift certificate at any time! insert wink)
At some point every day you will have to be okay with acting like a complete lunatic at a moments notice. Making funny voices for all the characters, pretending you are the injured patient for the doctor in training during dramatic play time, and making up complete nonsense songs on the spot when you realize your brain has run out of ideas for the day.
The most important thing that no one ever told me was the feeling you get EACH AND EVERY time you make a positive connection with a child. And every time you see that sparkle in their eyes when they finally understand something. And my absolute favorite which are those days when you feel like giving up on everything, yourself included; here comes one of your kiddos with the biggest, best hug of your life. No words exchanged. They just knew what you needed in that moment. And it sets your world straight again.
For all of the things that are seen as negatives those positives make it all worth the while.
No one ever told me what is was like to be an Early Childhood Teacher, but I’ll spend as much time as I can changing lives and screaming what I do!
Lead Pre-kindergarten Teacher