How Do I Become a Preschool Teacher?
Do you enjoy being around small children? If so, preschool teaching can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. While there are training and educational requirements, these prepare you to perform in a competent and caring manner as an early childhood educator.
Educational Requirements and Processes
The requirements for teaching preschool vary according to the setting in which you want to work and how far you want to advance in your career. The minimum requirements for being a preschool teacher in a home daycare environment or a private preschool environment are a high school diploma and a certificate in early child education. However, this can be very limiting. Most employers prefer more post-secondary education and public preschools require it.
Many people who make a career out of preschool teaching work in Head Start or a public school program. These programs tend to pay better than private preschools and home daycares, but they also require a higher level of education and professionalism. Half of all Head Start preschool teachers must have a bachelor’s degree; the remainder have an associate’s degree. If this degree is not in early child education or child development, the preschool teacher must have experience teaching young children.
Public schools have even more stringent requirements. Almost all preschool teachers in public schools have a bachelor’s degree in early child education or a related field. Many programs, regardless of the type and the amount of education required, also require that preschool teachers have experience either from a practicum in their education or from working as an assistant in a preschool program.
As in many fields, completing training and education in preschool teaching leads to higher pay and more career options. People who have completed a university degree also have more of the skills needed to successfully teach children and manage a classroom. Preschool teaching is a challenging job, so having additional education and skills is a benefit.
Course Content of a Preschool Teacher’s Education
Whether they seek a certificate, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree, there are skills that every preschool teacher learns in their education. First and foremost, a preschool teacher must understand child development. It is crucial to understand a child’s stage in development so you can meet their needs and deal with their challenges. In addition, preschool teachers learn how to teach small children. This is usually very fun, as small children learn mainly through play and other entertaining activities. One of the benefits of being a preschool teacher is that you get to spend a great deal of your day in play and other creative activities.
In addition to the skills needed to work well with preschool-aged children, preschool teachers also learn how to manage a classroom and document according to legal requirements. Most preschool teachers perform routine assessments of their young students so they can identify and serve their students’ needs. In addition, there are ways to design a classroom and develop policies that make the classroom an enriching and educational environment. Preschool teachers must have good social skills, both for showing students a good role model and for communicating effectively with parents. As a student completes a degree in early child education, they will learn all of the things they need to teach and manage children while creating a classroom where children can learn.
Career Opportunities in Preschool Teaching
The overall outlook for preschool teaching is very positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than 438,000 preschool teaching jobs last year. In addition, the field is growing faster than average, which means there will still be jobs for people who choose to begin their education now.
The average salary for a preschool teacher is $13.04 an hour, or more than $27,000 a year. However, there is a wide range for incomes in this field. While preschool teachers in home daycares make less than the average salary, a public preschool teacher with a bachelor’s degree will make over $40,000 a year plus benefits on average. In addition, preschool teachers at public schools work on ten months of the year, with two months off in the summer. Preschool teaching can be a well-paying career for people who get the education needed for higher level jobs.
The number of jobs in preschool teaching is expected to grow as more and more children attend early childhood education programs to prepare for higher public school standards. Growth is projected for at least the next ten years.
Average Daily Life of a Preschool Teacher
While many people assume that preschool teachers spend their days playing, preschool teachers have a very complicated and demanding job. Young children learn through play, so a preschool teacher has to plan activities that are educational and interesting enough for the youngest students.
A preschool teacher must know the concepts that are needed for a child to succeed in kindergarten and how to present these concepts so children learn them. In addition, they must teach students how to explore their world in a variety of ways. Children who attend preschool need foremost to learn language, reasoning, and social skills while working on age appropriate motor skills. A preschool teacher is responsible for knowing all of the things a young child must learn and helping each student to develop this knowledge through one-on-one and group activities. This huge range of activities and needs must be planned into a single day.
A preschool teacher’s day is planned to meet these goals. Although days vary from program to program, most follow a basic pattern. Teachers arrive early to prepare their classroom for the day. Children arrive at a set time and the teacher greets them and has an activity to entertain them while the rest of the students trickle in. When the whole class has arrived, the teacher has circle time. Most preschool circle times have songs, a review of the calendar and weather, and brief teaching about letters, numbers, and other concepts. Children who have birthdays or other special events are recognized before circle time is over.
After circle time, children usually have table time, in which they do a craft or educational activity that the preschool teacher has planned and prepared in advance. When this is complete, they have free play, either outside or inside. Throughout this busy morning, preschool teachers also give the children a healthy snack and read at least one book. Then it is time to lead the children in cleaning up and then eating lunch.
After lunch, the children prepare for nap time. The teacher usually dims lights and puts on soft music. Some children sleep; others lay quietly and rest at this time. After nap time, there is a snack, more free play, and finally time for parents to arrive. The teacher talks to each parent as they arrive, telling them how the child’s day was. Any educational or behavioral concerns are addressed. When the children have left, the preschool teacher can pick up the classroom and plan for future activities.
A preschool teacher’s day is busy and involves constant activity. However, most preschoolers love their teachers and are eager to learn. This is a very satisfying job for people who enjoy small children.
Career Paths in Preschool Teaching
There are many different career paths for a preschool teacher. People who enjoy teaching and have a bachelor’s degree or more can become supervisors of a preschool or even open a preschool of their own. If a preschool teacher completes graduate school, they can teach early child development at a university. In addition, people who have a degree can get additional certifications that allow them to teach in a special needs or therapeutic daycare. There are a variety of options in preschool teaching for people who wish to make it their career.