What is required to become an early childhood professional will vary depending on where you live and what level of teacher you aspire to become. However, there are requirements, some academic and some attitudinal and skill sets, that remain relatively the same no matter where you are in the world.
Included in this article is a basic outline of the skills and requirements necessary to teach children from birth through age five. However, if you have the passion and dedication it takes to become an early learning teacher, then it is essential you check your area’s local requirements needed to teach the world’s youngest learners.
In most cases, to become an early childhood teacher, you will need a two or four-year college degree. Unfortunately, despite needing a degree to teach in most early learner classrooms in many parts of the world, teaching in early childhood still has a stigma attached to it, as if ECE teachers are mere babysitters.
This mindset prevents some people from realizing that early childhood education certificates, programs, and degrees exist as some of the best academic institutions in the world! For example, Harvard University in the United States offers an online Certificate in Early Education Leadership designed specifically for center directors, teachers, and educational administrators.
However, the good news is that the global dialogue is slowly changing. And as more and more communities and countries recognize the importance of having highly qualified teachers, more early childhood education educator programs are receiving the notice and respect they deserve.
If you wish to work as a center director or owner, you will most likely need a four-year degree, a master’s degree, and several years of work experience in the ECE field.
Working with young children is often a trial-and-error process as you learn how to best interact with children of different ages, temperaments, and abilities. Like all jobs, the more experience you gain working with children, the better equipped you will be when you officially enter the field as a teacher.
Early learning centers will have more confidence in hiring individuals who have experience with children. Therefore it is wise to find opportunities to work and interact with children of all ages. Babysitting, day camps, after or before-school programs, working as a teacher’s aide, or working with children at your mosque or church are excellent ways to gain experience.
The education field requires a working knowledge of basic technology, specifically computers, tablets, and computer programs like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, PowerPoint, etc. In addition, you will likely need to use technology in the classroom as part of your teaching, particularly for preschool through kindergarten-aged classrooms.
Many early learning programs also use digital solutions like Bounce to communicate with parents throughout the day by sending photos, updates, and essential information about their child’s day.
You may also utilize computers and software to lesson plan, record assessments and documentation, and participate in training and continuing education courses.
In our post-COVID world, it is common for teachers to hold meetings and parent-teacher conferences on sites like ZOOM.
Soft skills are just as critical as your experience, education, and knowledge because, without adequate people and self-management skills, you will struggle to thrive in the early learning environment.
Early learning environments are social environments. Teachers interact with people all day long. To be a successful teacher, you must possess strong listening and communication skills, patience, empathy, time management and teamwork skills, and the ability to think on your feet and problem solve.
You must also remember to have patience, love, and understanding for yourself, as teaching is sometimes challenging. Being an early childhood teacher requires a lot of creativity, dedication, and a love of learning and teaching.