What made you want to be a kindergarten teacher?
I always wanted to be a teacher and saw it as a really valuable career. I was set on it since high school.
I’ve always loved children and watching them grow, learn and develop – I’d had a lot of opportunities to do that, growing up in a big extended family with lots of cousins.
And I had some great teachers of my own, in primary school. Looking back, when you think about the highlights of your schooling, building relationships with those special teachers… It’s a great bond and that’s something that encouraged me.
What training did you do?
After high school, I went straight into a four-year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education at Monash [University] in Frankston.
Then, when I’d had children of my own, I went back and did an 18-month Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education at RMIT.
At Karmai, we’re all continually developing our skills and repertoire of teaching strategies. I’m really inspired by the Reggio Emilia pedagogy, which is a really holistic approach to early childhood education. It originated in Italy and I’d love to go there to study it further.
What’s the best thing about the job?
I went into early childhood teaching because I really loved the idea that it’s an extension of learning from home and supporting children in the beginning of their formal education.
Families play a really important role and I really enjoy the relationships you form with the children, the families and the community.
I love being inspired by the children and watching them develop a sense of agency and control over their learning. I try to engage them in what they love and learn through that.
I also love working as part of a team. At Karmai, we have a lot of co-educators, so it’s a collaborative approach.
I love that the job is rewarding and challenging, and that you can take the challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
What would you say to someone interested in a career in early childhood education?
Don’t be overwhelmed! Things aren’t always going to happen as you planned, so you have to be flexible, open minded, and follow the children’s lead – their interests, the way they want to learn, and what they want to get out of life.
It’s a role that facilitates learning, rather than dictating – sometimes you need to be able to take a back seat.
And also, be prepared to give back to others who are just starting out in the profession.
How has your work been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our services [at Karmai] have continued to operate throughout. We’ve had all our educators on board, with all our programs still running for the families that wanted to attend, while also offering remote learning resources for the families that chose to self isolate.
In kinder, we’ve had really low numbers [attending] – around seven or eight kids when usually it’s just under 30. The majority have started to come back now.
It’s been challenging because we’ve really been running two programs – on site and online, with all the activities based around each child’s individual learning goals. And we’ll keep that going until the end of term for those families that haven’t come back yet.
It’s really given us a valuable insight into different ways of doing things – our technology skills have definitely improved!
A lot of our educators have had their own children at home, doing remote learning, and Karmai’s been really supportive in allowing staff to do extra planning from home.
We’ve also put in place really strong policies around the safety of children and staff – quick drop off, washing hands, altering activities to make them safe. All staff have done COVID training around hygiene.
It’s hard for young kids to understand social distancing, so the main focus of the curriculum has been on health and safety in a more general sense, not just in the centre but in the community and at home – telling stories about germs and how they can be good or bad.
We haven’t been mentioning the word [coronavirus/COVID-19] very much, but the kids have obviously heard about it, they know the language. We just give it some context and respond to their questioning, in a casual way.
It’s actually been a great time to be a teacher, with the opportunities to grow in our teaching pedagogy, and really appreciate how valuable the relationships are with the children and families.