Featuring Shara Lawrence-Weiss, founder of Personal Child Stories and Mommy Perks. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, freelance, special needs, nanny work and marketing. She resides in Northern Arizona with her husband and three children.
Many people, of all ages, wonder if the early childhood profession is for them. Oftentimes (yes, really) they assume that childcare/preschool is:
• No skills required
• Easy way to make money
• Anyone can do it
• As long as the kid is alive at the end of the day, it’s all good
My 20+ years working with children has taught me the following:
• It’s hard
• It’s rough
• It’s amazing
• It’s a blast
• It’s exhausting
• It’s exhilarating
• It’s a blessing
• It’s an eye opener
• It’s sad
• It’s happy
• It’s real
• It’s messy
• It’s heartbreaking
• It’s joyful
• It’s humbling
• It’s LOUD
• It’s creative
• It’s exploratory
• It’s oftentimes a thankless job
• It’s oftentimes a thankful job
• It’s NOT for everyone
My background contains experience in working with ages birth – 13. My own son recently turned 11 so we are entering tween waters as I write this. I was a nanny for over 16 years and worked with children of all ages, stages and mental/physical abilities. I have worked in preschools and at day care centers, in my own home and in the homes of other families. I’ve also worked in classrooms from Kindergarten through 4th grade (student teaching, volunteering, etc).
During some of my Education courses, numerous young girls would sit at my tables, anxious to enter the education field. I’d hear many of them proclaim: “I don’t really know if I’ll like working with kids but I figure it’s the easiest job I’ll ever be able to get.”
Umm…please exit now! 🙂
I’ve also talked with countless parents who make statements like: “We need childcare but don’t want to pay much. We think $3 or $4 an hour is fine for someone to come and sit with our kids.”
Sure – if you want the sitter to turn on the TV and pretend your children don’t exist. In that case, the pay is fine.
Here are my thoughts on why early childhood education/childcare should be a job well paid for: because parents deserve a GREAT childcare provider, the kids deserve a GREAT teacher/provider and the provider deserves a GREAT family (or business) that understands the value of quality care.
My husband and I recently lost our sitter to college. We encouraged her to go, don’t get me wrong. All the same, we were deeply saddened by her departure. Our children adored her and she spent her time teaching the kids: helping them color, write, count, name colors, sort, stack, walk, swing, dress up, dance, read, sing and more. In our tiny little town the average parent here pays a sitter $2 an hour. Yes, you heard that right. We paid our sitter $8 an hour (to the anger of a few other parents, mind you). We really had to cut back on other things in order to pay her that wage, as we both earn very humble wages ourselves. It was well worth that effort, though, knowing our children were not simply alive at the end of the day…they were THRIVING.
So I ask you again – do you want to be a childcare provider of some kind? Ask yourself these questions:
• Am I willing to work hard?
• Can I think outside the box?
• Can I help other children count, sort, color, paint, draw, play dress up, use their imaginations and shine?
• Will I dance with the kids?
• Will I sing songs?
• Am I willing to make a fool of myself so that the kids will laugh until they cry?
• Do I see the value of every child?
• Do I understand that each child is unique, special and different?
• Do I realize that by treating all children the SAME, I am taking away from their individuality, gifts and talents?
• Have I contemplated a deeper understanding of the word “fair?” Not that everyone gets the same but rather – that everyone gets what he or she needs?
• Do I understand that children need fresh air and free time to explore, play and examine their surroundings?
• Can I set rules while also understanding the importance of being flexible?
• Will I read with the children?
• Can I make voices when I read, emphasizing specific words; lowering my voice when needed, going higher when needed, making funny faces, etc?
• Will I teach the kids to tie their shoes, put lessons to rhyme or song or help them with social skills?
• Can I help the children develop, build and maintain a healthy self image and basis of self esteem?
• Will I address issues of kindness, thoughtfulness, giving and sharing?
• Do I know how to prevent, delay or stop bullying?
• Am I open to the idea that even though I might have my entire day planned out, something could very well fall apart and I’ll need to scramble for a new plan, ASAP?
• Can I accept that some of my kids will have special needs and my attention and focus will have to be divided between everyone, even when it’s not easy?
• Do I feel comfortable with the idea that I am helping to raise and bring up the next generation of thinkers, doers and inventors?
• Does all of this excite me?
• Would I be thrilled with this job, knowing I’ll be grossly underpaid and most likely underappreciated?
If you answered YES to these questions then I think it’s safe to say…early childhood is the PERFECT job for you!
Mark: Thanks, Shara, for sharing your expertise! Hopefully enough people will read this article, and dispel the misconception that working in Early Years just involves sitting around playing with kids the whole day. 🙂