What is it like to be an early childhood educator?

Translated by Herbert Meck

In our new series, club visitors tell us about their everyday work. Today Barbara gives us an insight into her work as an early childhood educator.

What do you do for a living? How long have you been doing this job?

I am an early childhood educator and head of a “Parent Child Initiative” crèche. I have been working as a group leader since September 2015 and as a group leader and facility manager since April 2019.

How did you get into this profession?

My mum was a kindergarten teacher, therefore, I had always had contact with children. I always knew that I wanted to work with children.

What is your normal working day like?

My normal working day? It’s hard to say. I have relaxed days and I also have very stressful days. I start work between 7am and 8am o’clock. The children are brought to the crèche by 8:30 and a colleague of mine prepares breakfast during that time. We have our daily routines that we have to follow, such as morning circle, where we greet the children and sing songs or do finger plays. After that there is free play time (9:30-11:00). During this time, we either go out to the playground or to our garden or we do handicrafts. But there are also days when children can just play – we do not disturb but accompany them if we are needed. In the meantime, the children are changed, as needed. At 11:30 we have lunch, after which the children are prepared for a nap. Afterwards we play again and the children are picked up from 14:00. Once in a while in the afternoon – when all the children are gone – or 1-2 times in the morning – when not all the children are there – I have time to go to the office and do some office work. If there are a lot of things to do, I work overtime, but I try to avoid that. My working day ends between 4 to 5 pm. 

What other tasks do you have to do at work that are not normally associated with your profession?

Hm. That’s a good question. I have to think of everything. As a manager, that’s part of my job, for example, drawing up the duty roster, making appointments for visits, writing e-mails, signing contracts, planning and carrying out settling-in periods, holding meetings with parents. I also have to check at regular intervals whether we have everything (nappies, craft materials) and if not, to get it.

What do you like most about your job?

The love I get from the children. That they love to cuddle and smile a lot. 

What do you find exhausting in your job?

I find settling in super exhausting. These are days when the new children cry a lot. Then you spend the whole day just singing and talking and calming them down. You do everything to make sure the child is doing well. What I find also so exhausting is that there are the other ten children around, who may be affected by the crying and may simply start having a bad day or they don’t listen to us at all. For me it is sometimes too much to be 100% in the group room and organise everything there and then be 100% in the office. Sometimes I’m just tired and feel like my head is going to explode. 

Do you think you earn well and sufficiently for your work?

I think that educators or childcare workers are not well paid. When you think about the responsibilities we have, it’s not enough. Personally, I don’t feel well paid either. I don’t get paid enough for being a group leader and facility manager. Our team consists of three childcare workers, one trainee and three educators. We have two groups with a maximum of 13 children each.

Would you change your job if you had the chance?

No. I don’t think I could do anything else. Even though I complain a lot, I couldn’t leave my job. 

What do you wish for your professional life in the future?

More salary, more gratitude and more respect from parents. 

The interview was conducted by Agnieszka Biernacka.

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