A day in the life of.. Childcare worker
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about a career change since becoming a Mummy. The desire to return to the corporate world dwindled as the little people I brought into this world grew into their individual personalities.
Since having my own Little Shires I’m aware how awesome it is to see them grow & develop. I was lucky and financially able to take time out and became a stay-at-home mummy, with the children going to nursery part time.
But what about caring for other children whose parents do return to work? Could my parental skills be a platform for a new career?
I visited the wonderful team at Co-operative Nursery in Oxford to see what it takes to make it in the world of being a childcare worker.
It was heartening to see a male member of staff working at the Nursery. As a parent to a boy, I think it’s important he gets to see role models in all walks of life.
However, I’m aware male role models in pre & primary schools are still relatively rare. Despite the age of dads being more involved in parental rearing, the image of the nursery industry is of one that offers ‘low pay’ & is female orientated. But this isn’t the reality.
The Co-operative nursery is typical of others in the industry. Nearly all the staff I met were doing some kind of training to develop their career, – it’s a very progressive industry with associated pay scales.
I spent a day in the Under 2s room at the Co-operative nursery by Oxford train station, and even after one day I realised just how rewarding it could be.
I know they aren’t my children but they are children you are all so eager and open and willing to learn – how could you not take an interest in them?
In such a short space of time I got to know the personalities of some the children, and they really did shape every aspect of my day.
It was lovely when one little girl wanted me to read just to her. Keeping these stickle-bricks contained on the table was nigh on impossible with little hands everywhere, and we all had a giggle when we sang the Little Turtle song (you know the one, where he drinks up all the water, eats the soap and blows a bubble!!) and the children went “POP!” at the end!
But I also came away thinking how challenging it is, too.
Even though there is a routine in the nursery room, no day can every be the same. The needs & personalities of the children will always influence the day’s activities. To say this job requires an element of flexibility is an understatement!
Despite what it looks like, there is order to the chaos in the nursery room. With 1 adult to 3 children (if they are under 2yo) it means that is always an adult to help usher, support or even cajole the children in a certain direction. But it is organised chaos with team-work at the centre of it all.
But there’s more to it than just playing in the sandpit & changing nappies. There’s plenty of paperwork as development & observational charts all need to be completed daily, too
A job or a calling?
It’s impossible not to connect with the children and it was really clear just how emotionally engaged the Oxford staff were to their children. Many of the staff had been there for five years or more, and couldn’t see themselves leaving any time soon!
You need to have a real affection for children to do this job, but the satisfaction from the ‘day job’ seems to be enormous!
Whichever way you look at it, you’re going to get mucky. It could be water from the splash table, paint from the stamps or sand from outside. If you need to look pristine each day & be behind a desk, then this really isn’t a role for you!
Patience & a G.S.o.H
I know it can take up to 20 minutes to get one of my children to put their shoes on. Multiply that by 15…
Everyone seemed to have so much patience, and with it a very calming and persuasive manner. Seriously, I could learn a lot about how to get things done without shouting.
This also seems to come with a good sense of humour, which was translated back to the children. Seriously, there were smiles all round, throughout the day, from both staff and children.
Be a life-skills teacher
Children are sponges, so it must be so rewarding watching them develop life skills such as learning how to share, how to drink from a glass or choosing activities they prefer. Every day there’s something different to monitor.
You need to have the ability to see a stick and turn it into a magic wand; or see a ribbon and turn it into a Unicorn’s tail! Keeping with their imaginations is like taking your brain on a mental agility course!
If you’re not creative then this probably isn’t a career for you!
Talk Out Loud
Children response to positive reinforcements & take their lead from you. I talked to the children constantly, I read stories out loud, I sang songs then used my voice to hush them to sleep!
You can’t be shy in a job like this!
Energy, lots of.
I don’t think you can be a nursery nurse and not be buoyed on by the energy, vigour and vim of the children. They are physically active and mentally engaging, and you need to be agile to keep up with them.
I had a really rewarding time at the Oxford nursery, more so than I anticipated. It sounds clichéd but working as a team it really did feel like a big family unit.
Yes, it was hard work but when one of the children does something he’s really proud of, and you are there to share that moment with them, then I’m sure the job doesn’t feel like a job anymore.
Disclosure: I was invited to spend a ‘day in the life’ of a nursery worker at the Co-Operative Nursery, @ Roger Dudman Way, Oxford. All comment and opinions cited here are my own, honest & true.
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I'm Tracey, nice to meet you. Mummyshire was 'born' three years ago after we moved from London to the Oxford countryside. Here I chart our journey adjusting to our new lives, the challenges of being in the countryside & surviving parenthood.
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