[Thanks to Steph for sharing her informational interview report on how to become a childcare program director and related career information.]
Childcare has many different areas of interests, from therapy, to psychology, physical activities like sport teams and art classes, and I have an interest in all of it, so I decided to learn more by interviewing the Childcare Program Director at the school where I taught a few years ago.
The director there is a mother of two girls, but she had been running the childcare program for many years before they came along. When we had met, I was applying for the toddler room, to teach one day a week for about four hours. In the class, we were to teach on a specific topic, like kindness, or family, and intertwine different activities, like art, sports, or music for instance into it. This created a wonderful weekly challenge for me to make these kids interested in something in new inventive ways, while learning and having some fun. During these times, the director became somewhat of a mentor for me, so asking her to help me with this informational interviewing project was no problem. We set up a lunch date at a new restaurant, and the questioning began.
I asked her first if she could tell me how she began working in a career that revolved around children. She let me know that she had graduated with a different career in mind, but she wanted the freedom of having some choice in what work she was doing, rather than sitting behind a computer doing the same thing everyday. She knew she wanted kids, and was good with them, but having a career in childcare was not really the ideal aspect. When she and her husband moved to the Bay Area, she was introduced to a community and there just happened to be an opening at this school, so she went in to see what it was all about. She worked in some of the classes, shadowing the teachers and started sharing with the classes, when she was offered the job. Years have passed since then, and she hasn’t turned back since.
Many skills are required for what she does. Because she oversees the entire program, not only does she need to know how to communicate well with children and parents individually, but also as a family unit. She needs to know billing, although she does have someone working in the “money department” (her words!), she still needs to make sure that we have enough people working for the kids, but not too many as to make us lose money. She picks important topics that apply directly to the children’s lives, and then creates different ways to explain these topics to the kids. For instance, she wanted to teach about families, she found a story to read during story time, an art project that allowed the children to pick different pictures to “shape” their families, and music during music time that is family based.
She also let me know that there are some parents who do not want their kids to know about kids with two moms or two dads, and that these are some of the problems that arise in her classrooms. Sometimes education cannot be politically correct.
We spoke briefly on salary, and she let me know that because she was a full time employee at a private school, the pay was a substantial amount. I was a part time employee, so I made a substantial amount less than her. She said that at different schools, there will be different amounts of pay, depending on the amount of kids, the exclusivity, and whatnot, but the pay should NOT be the draw when looking into working with kids. Children are constantly changing at such fast rates that if you are in it for the money, it can get quite overwhelming when you don’t look at the big picture. Kids need respect and attention, and a positive environment where they can learn and grow.
She told me that I was on a great path for getting into childcare. She hadn’t gone to school for it and with a degree, there is better pay and it can be easier adjusting to being around small ones all day long. She knows that I still work with kids, and she urged me to get involved with orphanages and classes for kids with disabilities to make it easier for me to see when something is possibly wrong with a child that a parent won’t necessarily see. She told me that parents sometimes don’t want to acknowledge when something is wrong with their kids because it can be scarier for them than the child, and lately more and more parents put their older kids onto medications they don’t need, and I should try to be aware of that.
She left me with some good advice as we finished our lunches. She told me that during the hours that I am the teacher and the kids are my students, the teacher becomes an authority that can be either a positive or negative force. Being nice all the time is not a positive thing to do, in fact it can be damaging to a child to not put up boundaries. Although “tough love” should be left up to the parents, teachers have a responsibility to uphold social standards and moral codes that reflect those of the community. That somewhat scared me, considering the weight of its responsibility.
This was a wonderful experience, sitting down and being able to ask questions that I would otherwise never ask. Normally, we talk about how classes are going and specific kids that are improving or falling behind, and then we move onto our personal lives, of course. The conversation showed me how tough it is to control your own emotions when you have a hundred kids who do not yet know how to control theirs. It opened my eyes to understand who I would be dealing with, not only the kids, but the family unit. I truly appreciated the sit down, and I think I learned things that are directly applicable to my career choice. Thanks to the director!
Thank You Note
Hi again! Thank you so much for allowing me to pick your brain last Thursday. I really appreciate you giving me advice and stories of your experience in Childcare. It has given me more reason to pursue a degree in childcare, as well as continue finding new ways to get involved with children in my community. Thank you again!