A child’s educator is one of the most important people in their lives. They not only depend on them to feel secure and happy when away from us, but they also really love them! It’s a very special relationship indeed.
It’s so important then that as parents we also know, appreciate and respect the people helping our little ones become all they can be.
I asked my sons’ wonderful educator, Shannon Chlystun of Newport Kindergarten in Sydney, what she wished parents knew. These are the things she feels will not only make your child’s day better, but also their hardworking educator’s.
1. Have a drop-off routine
A simple morning routine gives children a sense of control over their day, says Shannon. She suggests establishing an age-appropriate routine with the educator which includes things your child needs to do when they get to kindy. Such as, “Put the bag away, wash your hands and then say goodbye to Mummy.” And as much as we may want to hang around after kissing our cherubs goodbye, Shannon tells me it’s best to leave when we’ve told them we will, so that their teacher can help them settle.
2. Keep us in the loop
From your child having a bad night’s sleep, to the family dog dying, Shannon says it’s important to communicate anything that may be unsettling your little ones with their teachers. “It might affect their interactions with others, the child may be more tired or hungry and we can meet their needs better if we know exactly what’s going on,” she says.
Also, while it may be hard to share certain painful things, like parents separating, Shannon says doing so will help your child’s educator be there for them. “Children need people around them, not just their family, to help them process their feelings,” she explains.
3. Yes, we will soothe them when you leave
There’s nothing more heartbreaking than leaving your child upset at drop-off time, but Shannon says educators work hard to build their relationship with our children. “Connection is really important,” she says, explaining that getting to know each child and talking to their parents about how to help them settle, helps them put strategies in place to make them feel more at ease.
While it may be tempting to slip out of your child’s room when she’s happily playing to avoid the goodbye tears, Shannon advises we always say goodbye, and tell our child we’ll be coming back for them. ”This allows educators to help children develop coping skills with these more difficult emotions,” she says.
4. Please label your child’s stuff!
Even if it’s just an initial on the tongue of a pair of shoes, Shannon says labelling will spare your child’s teacher trying to work out who owns what.
“We get shoes, socks and pants and all of these things that are not labelled!” laughs Shannon, who tells me she scratches her head a thousand times a day trying to work out who owns what when a simple label would solve the mystery.
5. Your child has a fun day
Daycare is a place of fun, discovery and learning. While play dough and painting are often on the cards, Shannon tells me little ones get to do so many other activities that busy parents may not have the time to do at home on a regular basis. There’s sensory messy play using shaving cream, rice and slime, all sorts of craft and educational programs, not to mention imaginative play with their little buddies.
“The other day we put together a supermarket. We collected boxes and the children learnt about recycling, we learnt about financial literacy when we made price tags and talked about money – children need imaginative play to explore their experiences in their world,” says Shannon.
6. We are there for the love of the job and your kids, not the pay
It’s a disgraceful fact that many of the important people caring for and teaching our children are university-qualified but are low paid. While Shannon understands childcare is a huge expense for families, she’d like everyone to take a moment to appreciate the fact that educators are hard-working trained teachers, who also work beyond the classroom completing a lot of documentation required by law. Plus, as we all know too well, there’s no down time with kids! “It’s not like a normal job. As soon as you arrive in the morning you are on the go from the minute you start to the minute you finish,” she says.
7. We have big hopes for your little one
You know those moments where you wonder what your child could be and the amazing person they’ll become? Well, their teacher has them too. “I think most good teachers get into the industry thinking every child could be the next Einstein, Nelson Mandela or the amazing person who cures cancer, or does something world-changing,” says Shannon. “You never know what a child is going to be and you want to put in your best to give them every opportunity.”
8. We feel bad when we have to move on and leave your child
While she can’t speak for all educators, Shannon says any good teacher knows how important their relationship is with each child and so changing jobs is filled with guilt. “When you leave jobs, you feel bad about the children and their families you’re leaving behind,” she says, explaining that she knows in the past when she’s changed jobs that the children haven’t understood why she needed to move on. “You feel like you are almost devaluing the relationship you have with them by putting an adult reason to leaving.” This ‘adult reason’ may include pursuing professional development, or it may be driven by personal circumstances – and we all know kids aren’t going to get that!
9. We’re not babysitting; we are teaching your child
Most parents appreciate that daycare is a place of learning but there is still a misconception in society that it’s merely a childcare solution for working parents.
Shannon would like to state for the record that early childhood educational programs are driven by a National Early Years Learning Framework. “There’s a purpose to everything we do,” she says.
“There is individual planning for each child and there is a group plan and our goal is that by the end of the year we get them developing, progressing and building on their strengths and interests and using their interests as a teaching vehicle.”
10. The day your child graduates preschool is hard for us too
While seeing our little one hug his kindy teacher for the last time before going off to big school is heartbreaking for us, they feel it too. “I love the children and I feel sad when they go,” Shannon tells me. “I can remember doing Christmas concerts and crying while I’m trying to read a story. We have a history with your child. We do share something really special together.”