It’s no secret. Teaching is one of the most rewarding gigs you can take on. It takes a special kind of educator to work with young children, especially the ones in their first five years of life. They need help with… well, everything.
Look, we may know them as baffling creatures who ask “why?” 34 million times a day or who get angry because you won’t let them climb into the freezer, but it turns out there are also some wholesome moments when educating the next generation. In fact, because 90 per cent of a child’s brain develops by the age of five, early learning – and the people who lead it – can go on to shape that child’s entire life. So helping kids learn about themselves and the world, including why freezers are not traditionally considered play spaces, can be one of the most fulfilling careers ever.
For Molly Petruccelle, a career in early childhood education was an obvious choice.
“I’ve always had a passion for children’s growth, learning and development and this made it easy for me to choose a path in early childhood education and care,” says Molly.
“I was always the ‘go-to’ babysitter and entertainer for children around me, whether it be friends or family, or even at my local basketball stadium.”
After gaining a Certificate III and a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Molly then went on to study a Bachelor of Education through Charles Sturt University. Molly now works in a metro-based centre in Melbourne’s bustling Carlton North.
Molly’s most fulfilling career moment so far? Launching a kindergarten to primary school program for the group of children affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was throughout 2020 and 2021 when I realised that I had to adapt my program to suit the current times and ensure that my group of children could have a smooth and positive transition to school.”
Ugh, my heart.
Molly’s program helps children and parents in responding to, learning about, and coping with our changing world. Ultimately, this is making a tangible difference to families in her community.
While Molly knew educating children was her life’s work, regional early childhood teacher Linda Price took a different path.
Linda spent a decade in managerial roles in the marketing and communications fields before a family tragedy changed her life forever.
“In 2009, just after the Black Saturday fires, we lost our eldest daughter,” Linda says. “She was stillborn.”
“During those 40 hours at the hospital, I knew that I would do something more meaningful with my life. I just didn’t know what it would be.”
After giving birth to two more children, Linda found her answer when getting involved in her children’s playgroup. The idea crystalised while volunteering at her son’s kindergarten in Melbourne.
“I just had this thought that, not only could I be an early childhood teacher, but I would really enjoy it,” Linda says.
Linda enrolled in the Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and the rest is history.
While Linda notes there are fulfilling moments at work every day, one story in particular stands out.
“I was with a young child who had very low vision. He wanted to climb onto our climbing frame like everyone else, but he couldn’t distinguish the rope from the tanbark below,” shares Linda.
“Sensing his frustration, I set about helping him through placing high-visibility tape out for him and putting into place training from Vision Australia. When he climbed that rope bridge, his happy dance and accompanying huge smile will be etched in my mind forever.”
Have you got your tissues out yet?
While many of us have only the utmost respect for early childhood teachers and educators, many people tend to see it as an “easy job”. I ask Molly and Linda what the biggest career misconceptions are.
“A common belief is that we play all day. Truth is, we do. It is however, the ways that we play and the ways in which we interact with children in these moments that teach them life-long learning skills,” says Molly.
“Without learning through play, children would not grow up to be curious, independent, and responsible adults.”
Linda notes, “Being an early childhood teacher is the most academic work I have ever undertaken. To do this role well, you need to have knowledge of neuroscience, psychology, occupational, and speech therapy, along with the educational theories that underpin the frameworks. In reality, it is incredibly complex to achieve the perception that I just play all day!”
All in all, it seems that being an early childhood teacher or educator can fill your cup, and the cups of families and children in more ways than one. You’re not just a watchful eye assisting kids but rather a teacher, friend, therapist, entertainer and so much more.
The main takeaway from speaking with Molly and Linda? Early childhood teachers and educators are literally changing lives.
Linda shares, “My most fulfilling moments are those that are truly life-changing. I know that sounds clichéd… but it’s true.”
Learn more about the many pathways to become an early childhood educator, here.