Working In an Early Childhood Centre
How does a privately owned preschool provide care?
I will discuss a typical privately owned preschool which enrolls children from 6 weeks until 5 years of age, opening hours are usually around 7.30am - 6.30pm. The staff are trained or in training as early childhood educators, which consists ideally of a four year Bachelor of Education (teaching). Their task is to provide stimulating, educational and fun activities while caring for and providing a loving, warm and safe environment. They are also observing and documenting the children’s progress and learning.
Most staff work shifts of 9 hours with a one hour unpaid lunch break and two paid ten minute breaks. Although many centres are choosing to give teachers 11 hour shifts four days a week and claiming it is to give children continuity of care. Although a 7.30am -6.30pm shift working with children is not going to give children a quality energised teacher on any of their 4 days working. On most days there will be a reliever to cover a sick or away staff member, they usually come from an agency such as select and work the hours they are needed. The staff work as a team and new staff are orientated for a few days before becoming part of the team. Staff are encouraged to attend educational evenings, which are usually paid for by the centre. Centres should also contribute to the training towards the Diploma in early childhood education or any additional training.
The line of communication is close from the managers down to the employees. Management principles can come down as directives from government or are an idea from an employee that is discussed by the team and incorporated into the centers’ plans. All staff have a job description in writing given to them on becoming an employee.
Working as a preschool teacher can be very rewarding, watching children grow and learn but it can also be very physically taxing as you are constantly on your feet and bending and lifting. Preschools offer bonuses such as many sick days, and teachers can work part or full time which allows them to have time for a family and teachers usually get a discounted rate on childcare. A disadvantage is that preschools are usually open year round and have long working hours, and teachers may have to put in extra hours unpaid for planning and social events with families.
The main advantage and disadvantage in this workplace setting is this is a business and therefore has an hierarchical structure. The people at the top of the hierarchy make the decisions even if you disagree or believe that it is not in the best interests of the children.
A newly qualified staff members job will include
- Planning and implementing learning experiences
- serving meals and cleaning up.
- Providing adequate and age appropriate equipment and activities.
- Being aware of procedures and policies.
- Supervising children
- Establish routines, planning and programming.
- Communicate with parents and community.
- Basic care of children including sleeps, meals, toileting and changing, emotional needs of the children.
- Incorporate all cultural needs and include all children.
- Observe and document children to assess learning and writing children’s learning stories.
As Head teacher there are the same responsibilities as all other staff members with additional responsibilities which include:
- Assume overall responsibility and supervision of the children in the centres care.
- Arrange team meetings
- Arrange parent conferences.
- Supervise and support teachers
- Establish and maintain good relationships with parents.
- Work as a team with other head teachers, directors and regional managers.
- Model and maintain professionalism to all staff.
- Manage students, relievers and new staff members.
- Delegate jobs and non contact hours.
Deal with situations with staff, children and parents.
Conditions of employment are clear and the business owners are bound by the Employment Relations Act 2000. This protects employees but it also makes individual wage negotiations and outstanding employee loyalty or behaviour less likely to be recognized. An advantage in this setting is the quality facilities and space for children to play- it is also very large with a large number of children which can lead to many staff and a less intimate environment.
The lining up of children in highchairs for Kai time means safety is increased but it is institutional in appearance. The large number of children is good for widening a child’s experience and choice of playmates and diversity but it can leave some children feeling overwhelmed and cause them to withdraw. Large amounts of children can cause stress on staff which can cause them to burn out and develop less personal relationships.
There will be one head teacher for each class room who work on the floor. A 2IC who is second in charge of the whole centre and who works on the floor in a classroom (is usually one of the head teachers). A director is in charge of the whole preschool and has an office from which they work and the centre owner often comes to check how the centre is running.The job description for all staff will outline their responsibilities. A teacher will answer to the head teacher and they will pass issues on to the director, but the director is always available to answer any concerns.
New qualified staff are in a position where they can support and guide staff in training. Many decisions are made by group discussions at staff meetings. The director introduces new ideas and policies. Staff will discuss the policies within their team to work out how to best implement it into their daily planning and procedures. Staff can also bring ideas to staff meeting to discuss with supervisors and the director. Many newly qualified teachers bring fresh ideas and the latest ideas and philosophies to a centre as training is constantly changing.
Newly qualified staff can often filter information and concerns by dealing with less important issues and therefore lighten the load for head teachers and directors. An ability to differentiate information that is concerning or important is essential. With increasing professionalism comes an objective view of families and children that is; without prejudice and bias, and to accept and respect everyone. If the staff in training show prejudice or personal opinions of a negative nature it is often the newly qualified staff member rather then the supervisor who will witness this behaviour. Therefore he/she will be in an educational role in a more formal way then the supervisor. If unethical behaviours persist the head teacher and newly qualified staff member should be involved in their ongoing education and be personally committed to improving their professional attitude.
In an early childhood centre teamwork is essential, recognizing that each staff member has something to bring to a team that is unique. There should be regular forums for staff to make contributions in the way of ideas, or their different life experiences. Everyone has a different background, life experience or cultural background that can enrich the childcare centre environment. Team building can happen in informal settings such as going on a picnic together or going to study groups together. For teams to be effective in a professional sense they must have:
- clearly defined aims and objectives
- flexibility in staff roles.
- good team leaders
- commitment of staff to the children and families.
Clear communication is also important between staff and children, for the children to understand expectations of the staff and to pass onto staff their concerns or fears. Clear communication leads to staff feeling secure and confident in what is expected from them, and what the shared goals at the centre are. Clear written communication is essential as it remains as a reference point and could possibly become a legal document in a court case. It must not be open to interpretation because mistakes can be made. Types of information sharing in a team can be through meetings, verbal feedback, courses, newsletters, communication book, and noticeboards. Information must be given to the families about their children and the childcare centre. This is done through daily notebooks, notice boards and the children’s profile books. Most of this information should be discussed verbally to allow the parents to voice an concerns and let them know how their child is doing, so there is an ongoing exchange of information
Therefore communicating is two way, not just giving information but being an active listener as well.
The centre’s tasks such as rosters, timetables, programming and planning must be clear to allow the preschools daily routine to run smoothly. These must be regularly updated and clearly visible. We all have input into many of these duties which we discuss at staff meeting held fortnightly at the centre.
The staff should also feel loyalty toward their centre and pride in the work that is being done there.
It is important to communicate effectively so that you are understood by everyone, this can be verbally or written down. Mistakes can be made and instructions misinterpreted if the communication is not clear, precise and accurate. Views should not be bottled up as this can lead to resentment. When they are expressed it should be assertive not aggressive. There is always room for positive criticism but never negative feedback.
Respect for others and their opinions is important. The team is the vehicle for everyone working together in a satisfying way. It increases safety in the workplace and reduces conflict and confusion.
Clear, direct and open information should flow vertically upward and downward between management and staff and horizontally between staff and families.
Over all a preschool can be a place you will love going as opposed to a work place. It can be a dream job but if you work in a low quality care centre it can also be a nightmare. There are many centres out there and if you are considering this line of work make sure you choose a centre that will work well your beliefs. Working with children is more rewarding then any other job I can imagine but you also need to work alongside staff who you may not share the same educational ideas with and families aswell. The pay is not amazing either so you really need to do it for the love.
I love my job and I never regret the path I have taken. I feel proud when I tell people what I do and I get more hugs every day than most people get in a year. Teaching also opens so many doors for travel (you can travel the world very easily) and you can branch of to other areas of education if you decide.
No you have seen the running of a centre and how a centre should run...If you are a thinking about/want to be or already are a teacher use this info to help you in your teaching path.