The stark reality of being an early childhood educator.

It’s easy for other jobs to sound appealing when you’re flicking through the careers section or hunting on an app. But what is it really like when you clock on? In this career series, Mamamia looks beyond the three-line job descriptions and explores the reality of working in some of Australia’s most popular/bizarre/in-demand industries. From the paycheck to the politics and everything in between.

This week, early childhood educator Nick Stephens gives us a glimpse into an ‘ordinary’ day at a childcare centre.

What I do: Care for children from birth to five years old and help them to learn.

Why I do it: For two reasons. The first being that I love children; I feel most comfortable with them, as they’re non judgemental, authentic and energetic. The second is that it’s extremely meaningful work. It’s proven that the first five years of a child’s life are the most significant in their development.

Salary: As a Certificate III-qualified educator I earn $22.38 per hour. This certificate was acquired through studying and working full-time for one year on $8.65 per hour.

Contracted hours per week: 38 hours.

Actual hours per week: 43-45 hours.

What I wish I knew about my job before I started: Emotional exhaustion is as real as physical exhaustion. Also, Early Childhood workers are taken advantage of for their love of children. Employers often understand you have this empathy and will use it as leverage to gain what they want. I wish I knew that just because I chose the job because I love children, it doesn’t mean that others did for the same reasons.

Video by Mamamia

A typical day.

7:45am: Arrive at work at 7:45am for an 8:00am start. Set up activities in the preschool room. Walk in to toddlers’ room and greet children and staff that have arrived. Continue to greet incoming families. Take note of parent messages e.g “Zoe has been unwell, Zach can’t play in the sandpit today,” etc. Separate emotional children from their mothers and fathers. Soothe upset children.

9:00am: Sit children down for a story, coordinate children’s ‘News’ time. Behaviour-manage students who struggle with sitting down/have special needs. Keep the vibe of the classroom positive, compliment children doing the right thing.


9:30am: Prepare and transition children to the outdoors. Setup and supervise play environments. Interact with children and note down any significant moments so that they can be written as observations later on. Break up an argument between the boys who are learning to share with one truck. Help a new girl find some friends to play with on her first day.

Listen: About to go for a job interview? Here are six steps you need to follow…

10:30am: Transition to indoors for morning tea and indoor play. Encourage children to eat and to clean up after themselves. Run craft activity while keeping an eye on the boys who often argue in block corner. Compliment craft activities. Remember to give children their 11:00am medication.

11:30am: Transition to lunch. Remind students of our volume level in the lunchroom. Encourage children to try new foods. Remember to notify all staff of children that are ‘halal’, ‘vegetarian’ or ‘allergic’ to certain foods. Continue encouraging picky eaters before making them a Vegemite sandwich with no crust.

12:00pm: Settle children for rest time. Record what children eat/when they sleep. Write story of children’s day on iPad for parents to view. Respond to parent who has complained that their child never has photos taken of them. Ensure no photos are taken of children that have not given permission. Make note of girl that slept without her dummy for the first time.

12:30pm: 30-minute break in the lunchroom. Heat up and destroy spaghetti bolognese, make sure to go to the bathroom. Head back to room five minutes early to finish off writing the day book. Wake children that can’t sleep after 1:00pm.

1:30pm: Set up quiet activities so other children can still sleep. Clean bathrooms, mop and sweep floors. Remind children to go to the bathroom. Calm girl who has had an accident in her bed, clean bed and help change her.

2:30pm: Setup and serve afternoon tea. Record what children eat and what time they woke up. Make sure children have shoes and hats on ready to go outside. Help put on sunscreen.

3:30pm: Greet early-arriving parents. Give them a rundown of their child’s day. Respond to any concerns. Explain why their child has not had their hat put back on after they have taken it off. Get a hug from children as they leave. “See you tomorrow, Mr Nick!”

4:00pm: Give staff a rundown of any messages that need to be passed on. Get accident report signed by director for boy that fell over on the obstacle course. Return bed that was put out to dry after accident.

4:15pm: Leave centre.

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