If you’ve ever thought looking after a toddler on a bad day is hard, try eleven of them in one room. Add teething, screaming, vicious biting, scratching out eyes, inconsolable crying and poo. Now try and get these children fed, well rested, unscathed, clean and returned happily to parents or else be screamed at by the parent for a lost dummy or the bump their child got by being… a child. This part of the job is called childcare – the kind of term most people consider a lesser career choice.
What people forget is that we are educators. We have the huge pressure and responsibility of looking after each child and their complicated individual needs (in my class alone I have gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, a lethal anaphylaxis to egg, soy and nuts to add to my daily supervision). In addition we also of course teach.
What do we teach you may ask? Toddlers learn numbers, letters, shapes, colours, animals, common phrases, self help, manners, gross and fine motor skills, hygiene and oral health, empathy, emotions and that’s just the beginning. Childcare educators not only need to know and understand the individual interests of a child but also nurture their interests by creating individual activities for each child. Every day. Remember those screaming, biting, defiant children?
So you finally have eleven toddlers more or less complying and sitting together for a fleeting moment. You hurry to start your lesson to keep them focused. But hang on, the phone is ringing just as you begin. Again. It’s Johnny’s mum ringing to see if he ate all his food at lunch. Yes he did is the answer to that question. In fact we wrote down everything he ate and exactly how much, it’s on the food document that is presented to each parent each day.
Did I forget to mention the documenting? We also need to document everything. Not only so Johnny’s parents know exactly what he has done throughout the day, but to prove our teaching is implemented and successful. We write a daily reflection where we need to prove how our teaching today has covered culture, sustainability, the children’s interests, intentional teaching, parent and community input, principles and practices, the central philosophy, learning outcomes and of course all that writing needs to include each child and complimented by lots of happy snaps.
Does your bachelor qualified school teacher do that for you? Our expectations of school teachers are that they plan and implement lessons as dictated by the government syllabus, but did you know we do that too? Our syllabus is called the Early Learning Years Framework.
To write this reflection each day takes an hour for me. Yes, we work weekends and evenings too. Unpaid. How else can we write 3 documented learning stories for each child per month, every month? And a daily reflection and a 6 page critical reflection and an individual weekly planner for each child and source and prepare materials for activities? It exhausts me thinking about it.
Childcare educators have studied hard, trained hard and we host mandatory parent teacher nights just like regular teachers. We also have to attend mandatory unpaid, outside of work hours training every second month to ensure we are always up to date with the forever changing policies and procedures and to ensure we are the absolute best in the business.
But the most crucial part of our job? We CARE. We love the children as if they were our own and that’s the only reason I myself keep coming back. Our hands have touched your child’s drool, sick, poo, wee and snot. We ourselves have caught every infection your child has brought into the centre. We pay for our own antibiotics and doctors visits and trust me, this year alone has cost me plenty in sick days and medicine. Our stress affects our personal lives, our relationships and our energy levels. And I challenge you to find an educator who hasn’t spent their own money on resources due to centre funding being so low. $250 per month is our centre limit, by the way.
I once knew a man who was paid $300 per day to stand in a construction site elevator and hold the door open for trades. $300 per day, 5 days a week.
Now ask me how much I get paid.
*Words by Joanna Marshall. She is a Lead Educator and 2IC of an Early Learning Centre in Brisbane. She is passionate about equal pay and sushi.
**Art Direction By Ainsley Jade.