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Dr Natalie Robertson always wanted to be a teacher. But it was when she learnt about the importance of the first five years of a child’s life, and the impact teachers can have on those years, that she knew early childhood teaching was for her.
Now, as the Course Director of Bachelor of Education (Early Years) at Deakin University, she says it’s the perfect time to start a career in the field, as the demand for early childhood teachers is high – and getting higher.
According to the Australian Government’s Department of Jobs and Small Business, by 2023 this demand will grow by 22% (2018 Occupational Projections – five years to May 2023).
In Victoria there are two reasons, Dr Robertson says.
The first is that the Victorian Government will fund three-year-old kindergarten starting in certain areas in 2020 and rolling out across the State from 2022. In order for a kindergarten to receive this funding they need to have a registered early childhood teacher employed in the program.
The second reason is that, from 2020, some long day-care centres will be required to employ a second early childhood teacher.
‘To meet these needs,’ Dr Robertson says, ‘there’s going to be a huge demand for teachers.’
‘In Victoria early childhood education refers to birth up to age eight,’ Dr Robertson says. ‘So if we’re talking about levels of education that would be infancy right through to Grade 2.’
The main criterion for a teaching career in early childhood education is what you’d imagine: do you enjoy working with kids? If you do then, yes, this could be the career for you!
Dr Robertson says that people with an interest in psychology or sociology often suit a career in early childhood education. Or people with an interest in creativity and art. Or those who simply want to make a difference in the world.
‘We also get a lot of parents who are either returning to work or looking for a career change now that their children are older,’ Dr Robertson says.
‘Firsthand experience with children can often spark an interest or passion that they decide to follow as a career,’ Dr Robertson says.
Also, teaching as a profession draws on unique and wide-ranging life experiences, skills and knowledge. ‘Everyone can bring something special to their role as a teacher,’ Dr Robertson says. ‘Whether they’re coming from accounting, personal training, zoology, psychology or mechanics.’
And with flexible work and study options, early years courses make it easier to balance family life, work life and study. It doesn’t get much better than that!
'Everyone can bring something special to their role as a teacher.'
Dr Natalie Robertson,
Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University
Dr Robertson remembers one particular child from her days as a kindergarten teacher. ‘He had a challenging home life. And unlike many other children, when things upset him he did not like affection – emotional or physical – from adults in the classroom. Then one day when he hurt himself he ran over to me and gave me a hug which showed the amount of trust that had developed in our relationship.’
For Dr Robertson, this sums up the rewards of a teaching career in early childhood education – the relationships formed with the children and their families. ‘You get to know each child individually and see the progress that they make throughout the year. Knowing that you’re making a contribution to their current and future learning is really inspiring.’
But of course where there are rewards there are also challenges…
‘Early childhood teaching is built on strong relationships with others,’ Dr Robertson says. ‘And each child and family is unique.’
This means that they each require their own personalised care. Which can be challenging, she says. But what helps is a combination of strong communication and problem-solving skills, and a good sense of initiative.
If you’re excited by this rather than daunted, then early childhood education could well be the career for you. And the cherry on top is that the Victorian Government is now offering scholarships to attract new early childhood teachers to meet the increasing demand.
What more could you want? Between the demand, the incentives and the rewards, has there ever been a better time to make a difference?
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