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What do you wish you would have done before becoming a teacher?

Hi! I'm Alli, I'm 15 and interested in pursuing early childhood education. I was curious if any teachers have things they wish they would have done before college or finding a job? Teaching children is something I've always been interested in, I'm just not entirely sure on the steps I should take and what exactly to prepare myself for.

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Tara’s Answer

Hi Alli! Great question.
In my opinion, it's always been incredibly easy to find a job in early childhood education. There is a huge need for teachers who are skilled at and love working with small children. The issue that I ran into right away was that I lacked classroom management skills. Being able to manage a rambunctious group of young children ends up being more important than planning a great lesson. Class sizes in the U.S. are way too big, and one teacher is usually in charge of about 12 kids under the age of 3. That is a lot if you think about the fact that half of them will need to have their diapers changed or go to the potty at any given point. Anyway, I wish that I had more experience managing groups of children before I stepped foot into a classroom. None of my training set me up for success so I learned everything from trial and error. If the school doesn't allow you to use time-outs or any kind of discipline, it becomes even trickier. I've found that reading a lot of material on the internet about early childhood cognitive behavior and testimonials from teachers who have mastered classroom management helped me a lot. Some of my go-to techniques were using redirection and making sure that all the toys in the room were child-proof. Although eco-friendly, wooden toys can be a danger because small children don't realize that they can hurt someone with a wooden block, per se. Finding ways to keep their attention so that they don't get bored or distracted also helps. Having individual stations (a la Montessori style) with a reading nook, finger paint activity, blocks, etc. helps to give students a chance to engage in their favorite activity. Moreover, it's extremely important that you work somewhere with a fenced-in outdoor area (that is child-proof) for the children to play in as outside time is crucial for their development.

In summary, I believe it will be easy to find a job, but it is sometimes difficult to stay in the job without experiencing burnout. If you love working with children and you find a great place to work where they support their teachers, you will be fine. Many times when you are hired for the position they will train you, and then you can get some continuing education credits in Early Childhood Education. That's the most affordable way to do it. I've always gotten the job without having any special certifications, just a B.A. in Theater. I'm not sure if that varies from state to state.

One caveat: if you would like to teach children in elementary school or above, you will need a certification to do that.

I hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon I will use this advice as I prepare for my career. Alliana
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Dawn’s Answer

Hi Alli- before becoming an early childhood teacher, I wish I had more experience in classroom management. You have time to gain some experience as an assistant before you go to school for a degree. After you gain some experience, if it’s still a career you are passionate about, earn a degree. It will give you the knowledge about child development and best practices. It’s will also help you get the jobs you want versus taking the jobs that are available. I am a speech pathologist and an early childhood teacher. I work with special needs preschoolers. It’s challenging but I absolutely love what I do and who I work with every day.
Thank you comment icon Dawn, thank you! Alliana
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Jacqueline’s Answer

Hi Alli and anyone who is interested in this question. Becoming a teacher is a top goal for me. I am going to answer this question because I am doing what I wish I would have done before becoming a teacher right now. I have a degree in early education but I decided to become a CPA and go into the business world before becoming a full time teacher. I think this was the best choice because I am able to see how the world works, how adults work, how money works, and what is most important to people. I think when I become a teacher, the lessons learned by being in the corporate world are going to help me to teach my students even better.
I believe the best thing to do is to think about what you are passionate about. You can pursue that at the same time or before you become a teacher. Any experiences that you encounter can be used to make you an even better teacher.
Thank you comment icon Your advice was so helpful! Alliana
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Brittany’s Answer

Hi Alli!

One thing I wish I would’ve done differently was either gone to school for it, or chose to student teach I’m my alternative certification program. An alternative certification program (ACP) is designed for people who have degrees outside of the education field. You have to pass tests and complete coursework to prepare you to become a teacher. In some programs, you can choose to student teach before you get a job as a teacher. I didn’t choose that route and had very little experience with kids so my first job was definitely a learning experience! I think having some experience before stepping into the classroom would’ve given me more insight as to what all I would be doing as a teacher. I had to learn as I went along and that was a little stressful at times.

If you’re interested in teaching, I would suggest finding a way to work with kids! You can volunteer with some organizations or maybe get involved with an after school program. Those have students of all ages and that can help you determine what ages you’d like to work with. Maybe working part-time at a daycare could help as well. I’d only work with 4 year olds and older because they tend to actually learn curriculum so you can practice things like math, reading, writing, etc. I know it depends on the center and how it operates.

Being a teacher was so fun and rewarding! I loved working with kids and helping them learn. I hope this helps you on your journey. Good luck!

Sincerely,

Brittany W.
Thank you comment icon Thank you, this is really helpful. Alliana
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Jerry’s Answer

First: I would never consider getting involved in early childhood education.

I admire you for even considering it.

I spend a good deal of time in Finland, where early childhood care is a matter of right of every parent to have their children participate. I live close to one of the centers and every day I see staff with children (some in carriages!!) out with their charges. Staff are positive and warm.And take the children all sorts of places to introduce them to what life is like here. Shops. Looking at the ducks. Wandering along a river. To the library. I am not sure why they chose to do what they do, but they are obviously very comfortable and content with what they do.

Others have responded by suggesting you do some volunteer work in early childhood care. Do it! And not for just a few months. Give it at least a year and then see how you feel about it.

Besides the above, I'm sure these childcare facilities could use the help and the interest.

Off you go!
Thank you comment icon Thanks, can't wait to put this advice into action! Alliana
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Mary’s Answer

Hello! I agree with the answer regarding volunteer work . You can choose work NOT involving children, such as animal shelters, senior living facilities, food banks, local hospitals or organizations such as Sierra Club, Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Special Olympics. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Mary! Alliana
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