If you’ve ever thought looking after a toddler on a bad day is hard, try 11 of them. In one room. Now add teething, screaming, vicious biting, scratching out eyes, inconsolable crying and poo, so much stinky, stranger poo.
This part of the job is called ‘childcare’ — the kind of term most people consider a ‘lesser’ career choice. What many forget or simply don’t realise is that we are, of course, educators. Not only do we have the immense pressure and responsibility of looking after each child and their complicated individual needs (in my class alone I have kids who are gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, ADD, and have lethal anaphylaxis to egg, soy and nuts to add to my daily supervision) we also of course, teach. And we teach hard.
So you finally have 11 toddlers more or less complying and sitting together for a fleeting moment, even if it means they simply must have Bubby, Fluffy, Blankie, Nanny, Dummy, Ellie and Baba (comforters). 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 ask if he ate all his food at lunch. Yes he did. In fact, we wrote down everything he ate and exactly how much, and it’s on the food document which is presented to you each day.
Did I forget to mention the documenting? We also need to document everything. I mean literally everything that happens. Not only so Johnny’s parents know exactly what he has done throughout the day (he bounced a ball, he learnt to say please, he did a poo at 11.12am), but to prove our teaching is implemented and successful.
Each day 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 practises, the centre philosophy, ELYF learning outcomes, and, of course, all that writing needs to include each child and be 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, and I write fast. By the way, educators have to type while the children are sleeping, so no, we don’t rest when they rest. In fact, it’s actually more stressful as this is the only time we will be able to get this done and most children in my room sleep for only 40 minutes and I already have a mountain of work to take home with me.
Yes, we work weekends and evenings too. Unpaid. How else can we write three documented learning stories for each child per month, every month. I may have had 11 children today, but I have 23 on my roll. When — in my eight hours of constant teaching and ‘child caring’ — is there time do to this? And a daily reflection and a six-page critical reflection and an individual weekly planner for each child and source and prepare materials for activities? There’s actually even more documenting than this throughout the day but honestly 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. Child protection, safe sleeping, holistic learning, inspiring learning environments, epilepsy. We’ve done them all.
And the cleaning! We sweep, mop, wash mountains of dishes, vacuum, sanitize toys, clean toilets, do laundry, blow leaves, sweep sand and bark, water gardens, feed the centre animals — and that’s not just for our rooms sake. We need to clean the whole centre ourselves. Each and every day.
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 keep coming back. Our hands have touched your child’s drool, vomit, 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, let alone the toll on my body. Our stress affects our personal lives, our relationships, our energy levels. And I implore 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, if you were wondering. But we are here because we love our children (your children) and we want their first steps to be strong, confident, loved and educated.
But you cannot deny we are absolutely overworked, overlooked and grossly, grossly underpaid.
I once knew a man who was paid $300 per day to stand in a construction site elevator and hold the door open for tradies. He called the job ‘council candy’. $300 per day, five days a week.
Now ask me how much I get paid.