A lot changes in a child’s first five years of life, which means that each early childhood classroom is very unique. What infants need from their teachers will greatly differ from preschoolers.
Some teachers may like the position of a classroom floater, where they can work with different age groups. For other educators, you may decide that one age group fits your temperament and teaching style best.
Regardless, you’ll likely ask yourself where you best fit at some point along your career path. Yes, even educators who have been teaching for 10 years may have a change of heart! Learn more about the differences of teaching in various ECE classrooms. One of our very own U-GRO team members also shares her experience and advice!
Do You Fit as an Infant/Toddler Teacher?
As an infant/toddler teacher, early learning is at the heart of what you do. After all, 90% of a child’s brain develops in the first few years of life. You have the gift of seeing many of your students experience their firsts!
Infants and toddlers have endless love and joy to give; they’ll always be excited to see you! Ms. Emily, a teacher in the Bunny classroom at U-GRO Messiah Lifeways, experienced this firsthand. She began in the Ladybug (older 2s) and Butterfly (preschool) classrooms and loved her time there, but felt a calling to the Bunny classroom with the infants.
“I loved how they depended on you for everything and loved you without judgment,” Ms. Emily recalls about her initial experiences in the infant classroom.
She adds that she feels a deeper connection to parents of this age group. She loves telling them about their child’s day and seeing how happy parents are to know that their child was loved and cared for. She’s worked with the Bunnies for nearly five years.
Should You Consider Teaching Preschool?
Unconditional love and care is absolutely essential no matter what age you teach; but the focus of your work is different in the preschool classroom. You’re teaching higher-level academic skills and preparing children for kindergarten. At U-GRO, our dedicated team is the reason that our students meet or exceed Pennsylvania’s standards for kindergarten readiness.
In addition to academics, you’re also putting social-emotional skills into action: conflict resolution, cooperation, emotional regulation, self-regulation, and more.
Teaching in early childhood education requires constant care and supervision no matter what age group you work with. Some teachers, however, may prefer to work with preschoolers who are older and practicing independence. With preschoolers, you’ll focus on self-help skills like putting on a bookbag, cleaning up after naps and meals, potty-training, and handwashing.
What If You Change Your Mind?
Not every teacher stays in the classroom they started in, and that’s okay! We even have teachers who didn’t start their careers in ECE. Some of our team members studied and worked in elementary education, including Ms. Emily. She graduated with an elementary education degree and a certificate to teach sixth to ninth grade math!
Ms. Emily began her time at U-GRO in classrooms of all ages due to the center’s needs. It was a great opportunity for her and her director to decide where would she would fit best. If you have the opportunity to intern or work in different classrooms, take advantage of it! It may take time for you to find the right age group.
“Experience all ages and be open,” she says. “Be honest with your director. They want to place you in the best room for you.”
She adds that new and experienced teachers should be open to change and stepping out of their comfort zone.
All of our teachers have to be adaptable to age-appropriate skills. Each child develops at his or her own pace, and this may mean you have to change your teaching approach. While one age group may be a better fit for you than another, there are commonalities among all of our team members. Your purpose doesn’t change. All of our teachers provide quality care and education to each and every child.