I LOVE my job. Every aspect of it. I live for it.
I love the relationships with my staff team, with the children that live day to day in our space with us, and with their families – parents, grandparents, carers, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends and other relatives. It is like this amazingly wonderful community within a community. A community that thanks to the wonders of technology, reaches to the far corners of the world. I think this is what I love the most. But relationships, like everything in this world, don’t come without work. The work doesn’t need to be a burden though.
I am one of the lucky ones. I get to work in my heart space every day.
A couple of days ago, I was subjected to yet another (yes, they seem to appear fairly frequently) post written by an educator – outlining a day of stress and poor management of resources and time. I was left at the end of it, almost in tears for those children and the experience of their every day. But that wasn’t the worst even – I was then subjected to viewing the number of times that post was liked and shared. How can so many people that feel that way be out there working with our precious children? There was even a comment in there from a parent saying that she would remove her child from a space that was like that one described.
There is part of me that wonders if the conditions really are that horrific, or whether posts such as this, are educators trying to out-martyr one another. “Oh, look at what I do in the name of my huge responsibility of caring for young children. But I do it because I love the children so much.” I would beg people – if this is why you are making such posts – STOP IT! And if it is not. If your day truly feels this terrible – please, for the love of God – do something about it! If you love the children the way you say you do – fight for change to practices that create days like this. You CAN make a difference.
But now – I also want to write MY response. Because my days are a far cry from these.
It’s 6.30am. I arrive at the centre with enough time before we open to make sure that when the first family walks through the door – the atmosphere is welcoming. There is gentle music, inviting scents, soft lighting, and a sense of calm. Even before we ‘open’ at 6.45am, families start coming in the door. This ensures that those families who need to be getting away to work have unhurried time to bring their children in and settle them for the day. I make sure I am in my office, or close by to greet families with a warm welcome as they come in. I know all the children in our care, and I know their level of tolerance for greetings early in the morning. I wait for each child to respond (or not!) and meet them where they are. I greet younger and older siblings of our precious cargo too! I scan the adults for signs of how their morning has been, and jump to help if I sense stresses or need. The most important thing at this time (and throughout the morning) is that children begin their day in a calm and relaxed manner. How they separate from their parents is the biggest influencer on the day ahead. Circle of security is in full swing at this time.
Educators are ready and waiting to greet children, and to aid in the smooth transition of children from the arms of their adults. Some sit down to eat breakfast as they arrive, others race to the tank to greet our turtle, some just like a cuddle with their trusted educator, and some run to greet their friends and join in play. Some children walk back to the front gate with me to wave goodbye to their parent driving off to work for the day – part of a very important separation ritual that has been created with them. And yes – sometimes there are tears….. and in these cases, we pour our hearts into the child, recognising their emotional state, and helping them to move through it.
As the morning goes on, more children arrive, the doors to outside open up, more educators arrive…… the community is in full swing. Each child is still treated with the care and respect of the earlier children. Each child with a different little routine that helps them move into our space. There are educators spotted around the centre – if not engaging with children, in a space down low that they are accessible. There are conversations going on, stories being read, songs being sung, play deepening, and a sense of calm and joy of being together in the space we are in.
Here a group of children excitedly talking about their weekend adventures; there an educator sitting on a mat under the trees chatting with children while engaging in a planned experience; close by an educator chatting with a parent who has arrived for the day. Children might be starting to require changes of nappies….. and a close trusted carer will guide the child to the bathroom, where unhurried special bonding one-on-one time is spent with the child. Including the child in the routine occurring, talking with them, making sure they do as much to be included in the routine as they are capable of – not just ripping through an unpleasant task.
The day has started. And throughout the day children march to the beat of their own drums. Rhythms are important – and we also know that each child has a unique song. There are spaces to eat, spaces to rest/sleep, spaces to be together, spaces to be alone, spaces to be with adults, spaces to be away from adults. There is joking and laughter, there are quiet times and cuddles. We are all here, in this space, living our lives together. Adults and children alike are expected to give their all to being there. Sharing their interests, talents, hopes, wishes, emotions……..
The doors to all our three rooms remain open during the day, and children are free to roam and find the space they wish to be in at any point in time. The majority of children spend the majority of their days outdoors. This is where connections to the earth are built. It is where we all ground ourselves. All children are familiar to all adults – no matter which room they are “attached” to. Weather doesn’t prevent play from happening. It just changes the dynamic. We LOVE rain! It doesn’t trap us inside. It opens up a whole different world in the playground. One filled with puddles and wonder. When was the last time you stood out in the rain and looked up to the skies?
Tasks are completed throughout the day. Often children joining in the upkeep of our environment. And sometimes they don’t – and that is ok too. They are children, and they are learning. They’ve got so much growing and developing to do. We observe them closely in their play, and use our observations to plan environments and our interactions with them.
When families start arriving to collect children, they often find their child deep in play, and actually disappointed to have to be leaving. There are goodbyes – often a child needing to do the rounds of the whole centre and say goodbye to everyone. Again – families are scanned for signs of how their day has been. Sometimes a chat to vent out frustrations is required. We give excited accounts of our day, and have the goal to send everyone out the front door united and ready to be together.
The end of the day draws near. We draw the children in close to us. Sometimes they help with end of day tasks and cleaning. Sometimes they all huddle up together for a story. Sometimes they stay outside and enjoy the peacefulness of the evening blanket coming over. As with the whole day – children have choice as to how they are.
It’s 6.15pm. The last families have left. Shortly afterwards I walk out the front door with the late shift educators. All of us lifted in togetherness. This lot are my family – without doubt.
We’ve lived another day together. Sharing ourselves. Giving our hearts. And we head home to our own families and lives…….. knowing we have done everything in our power to give children the best day imaginable. Yes – sometimes we are exhausted – but it’s a good exhausted. One that fills us with anticipation of the next time we will be together, and the wondering of what new adventures will await.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” — Steve Jobs