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5 Things I Want Parents to Know About Child Care Workers
As a teacher and manager in child care myself, I feel that a lot of us as a whole do not always get the credit that we deserve for the work that we do. We are mostly portrayed as burnt out or neglectful because of stories shared through the news and social media. I hate seeing these stories just as much as any human does, but one bad story does not count for all the rest of the individuals out there providing the best care they can for children. If it's one thing that I wish for my job working in child care, it's that parents would be more informed about the background of daycare workers/teachers and what they're job is really like. Having put much thought into this, here are the five most important things I think parents should know about child care workers.
1. Many day care teachers/workers are college educated
I began my experience in child care in college as a student worker at the university's on campus day care/preschool. Most of the staff there had their Bachelor's in child development or early childhood education, and some were even working towards their masters. Their educational background really made a difference when it came to caring for the children and interacting with them as individuals. I owe a lot of what I know now when it comes to children from working at that center. Going on after college to working for a day care corporation, I still have many co-workers who have four-year degrees or are enrolled in school part-time working towards their bachelors. The idea that preschool teachers or day care workers do not or are not required to have any college education is not necessarily true anymore these days. Many jobs working with children today in day care centers require at least an associates degree in child development or another related field.
2. While child care can be very expensive, the teachers are not paid very much.
Trust me, working for an early childhood/day care corporation I know how expensive child care is. It's definitely something most families have to budget for, and it isn't always easy either to be approved for state assistance depending on how much money you make at your job. However, even with how expensive child care rates can be the teachers taking care of the children are in the same boat as the families struggling to pay for care. Child care workers are not paid salary, they are paid hourly. On average, most are lucky to be paid anywhere from $11-$13 an hour and they are not always guaranteed to be paid a full 40 hour work week. Most child care franchises and corporations need to make their labor even in order to pay everyone, so teachers barely get paid for any overtime. Benefits such as health insurance, dental, vision, life, and 401 k are offered throughout many companies, however, depending on how expensive they can get some teachers barely bring anything home in their paychecks. I for one am very fortunate that because of my position title and educational background, I get paid a couple dollars more than the average child care teacher. But being completely on my own with rent to pay, health insurance, car payments and insurance, phone bills, and utilities I still find it hard to make ends meet. I definitely live paycheck to paycheck. I will always remember what one of my own teachers told me in college about the child care field; "If you don't want to live paycheck to paycheck, either marry someone rich or change your major".
3. That being said, child care workers are not in their field for the money
I definitely did not major in child development in college for the money. Most of us that go into this field are not going in it thinking that someday they will be making six figures. We are taking care of other peoples children because there is something that is drawing us to that work. Many women (and men) that I have worked with or went to college with, enjoy this field because of how they get to watch children grow from the everyday experiences we give them. For me, I love being around young children because of their innocent and simple view of the world. Despite the crying, whining, and screaming during the day that yes, can drive you a little crazy sometimes, I would rather work with mostly children than I would adults my own age. Children aren't worried about paying their bills or their rent. They're not talking about who's getting married or who just bought a nice house. They're concerned about what toy they should play with, when they're going to get outside time on the playground, and what food is being served at lunchtime. It's almost refreshing being around them.
4. People working in day care do not just "babysit" children
While it's important of course that children get their basic needs met during the day while they are in child care, it's also vital to their development that they are getting their educational needs met too. And that's what day care teachers are there for. Rather than just sitting and watching children play all day, most centers have a curriculum that it's teachers are required to follow for infants all the way to pre-kindergarten age. The curriculum helps guide the activities for the children throughout the day and support all parts of their development such as cognitive, social/emotional, and physical. Even if certain activities include what look like just simply "playing with blocks", children are actually learning a lot. By showing them how to build a tower and then re-build it when it falls over, children are learning problem-solving skills. We can teach them colors and shapes through simply just playing with blocks. The types of interactions that day care teachers have with children through these curriculum activities play a big part in their learning and development.
5. Day care teachers also aim to have positive relationships with the parents
One of the most important things in a child care workers job is the relationship with the parents. Child care is very much a customer service field, and in order to keep your customers (the parents) you must give them a positive experience with your service. Day care teachers very much play the role also of a parent educator, especially when it comes to first time parents. It's something that many workers including myself, love about their job. I enjoy helping parents figure out what to do about a nasty diaper rash or how to prevent their child from biting other kids. These interactions are what help build the relationship between the teacher and the parent. Day care teachers can sometimes even be a big part of a parents support system in helping raising their child. It's important to child care workers that they not only meet the needs of the children, but the parents as well.
It's all about finding the right care for your child
Working in the child care field myself, I know that not all day care centers offer the best service to families. But as I said earlier, one bad service does not count for the rest. I can guarantee to parents that there are many day care centers out there that are made up of the kind of workers that I listed above. Hopefully this article will help parents and other individuals look at child care workers and their job in a different light. Also, I hope this gives a guideline to parents of what to look for in teachers at a day care center.