My name is Kylie Grey and I have been an early childhood educator since 2010.
Education is something that I have always been drawn to. Even when I was a young child I wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to educate young children. And while it took me a few career changes, further study and creating a family of my own first, I finally found my way into the early childhood sector and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Ok, well truth be told, there are some changes I’d make. Instead of being paid less than babysitters, we would be valued and recognised as educators – because what I do every day is educate children.
Did you know that 90 per cent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years of their life?
That is why high quality education is so important in the early years and this is what I keep in mind every day that I go to work, because after all, I am helping the future generations of Australians become confident, resilient, happy, well-adjusted people who have a love of learning and education that will assist them throughout the rest of their schooling lives.
Some of you may wonder just what does an early childhood educator do? Well I am here to give you a glimpse into what an average day is like. In my current role I work at a fantastic centre in Melbourne with children from six months to five years of age.
A recent (average) day involved the following:
· I sat with our kinder room children (aged three to five) during lunch and discussed why nutrition is important and how we get energy and stay healthy from what we eat.
· I comforted an upset four-year old child who tripped over during sandpit play, sat and talked to him about his recent birthday while giving lots of cuddles.
· I had a breakthrough with a 15-month-old in our Babies Room, who struggled to build a relationship with educators. She would shake her head, cry or just repeatedly said no when educators tried engage with her. But today, after lots of patient work there were cuddles, laughter and singing together. Unless a child feels secure in their environment they won't feel confident or safe to learn, to strive and reach their full potential.
· I spent time with an 11-month old just learning to talk. It might have sounded like baby babble but these initial conversations are vital for children to help foster their language development.
· I helped develop a 2.5-year-old’s imagination through sand play. We pretended to bake chocolate cakes and make Easter eggs. This positive supported play gives children the confidence to explore their imagination, language and social skills.
· I also had conversations with colleagues about children’s developmental progress, discussions with parents on their child’s day, daily program planning and reporting, dispensing of medicine as well as assisting children with their daily routines, such as toileting and putting on clothes.
Each day as an educator is different; children constantly surprise you and caring for and educating them is an enormous responsibility. We need to be dynamic, resourceful and exercise careful judgement. Children deserve every ounce of our training, experience and passion that we can give them.
But without decent investment in early childhood education by our government then children will be short-changed and the whole community will be much poorer for it.
Australia chronically underfunds its investment in early childhood education and care. We invest just 0.45 per cent of our GDP investing in this sector. New Zealand, for example, spends 1 per cent. The OECD average is 0.6 per cent.
What does that mean? Currently 180 skilled, experienced educators quit the sector nationwide every single week as they can no longer afford to live on the low wages we are paid. Unfortunately love and passion for educating Australia’s children doesn’t pay the bills.
So stand up and join with me and thousands of other proud United Voice early childhood members as we raise our voices for professional pay and an early education sector that gives Australian children the best possible start in life.
Surely our children deserve nothing less?
* Kylie Grey is a Melbourne early childhood educator. She is a United Voice member and leader in its Quality Matters campaign for high quality early childhood education and professional pay for early childhood educators.
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