I have been teaching for 20 years in ECE and have found it a mostly rewarding job but it does come with its challenges.

The relationships with children and their parents are so special. I enjoy seeing the child grow and develop, and to see the wonder and delight when they learn something new and to know I’ve been a part of it. This is what keeps me engaged.

But there are the other experiences; I remember clearly the parent starting their two-year-old and asking us if we expelled children – expel, never; and we didn’t – but I did spend two days as an extra teacher on the floor never leaving that child’s side. We had to keep our other children safe and this child too. He punched, kicked, bit and swore; it was tough but we were lucky, as this child settled down after a couple of days. He was always a challenge but we were able to help him learn to play and take turns with other children.

A colleague has recently been sharing her story of hearing loss. She had a child scream directly in her ear and as a result she suffered hearing loss. She has fought for the hearing aids to be paid for, but the medical professional would not accept that ECE services are noisy places or that a child screaming in your ear could damage it. As a result she has had to fund her own hearing aids, causing much stress for her.

The reality of ECE is that you never know what each day will bring, when a child will unexpectedly jump on your back or scream in your ear and there are always children and whānau needing extra support.

Shadowing a child is not uncommon; sometimes it’s needed for weeks as we wait for assessment or assistance from the Ministry of Education’s Learning Support team.

I’ve been bitten, scratched, sworn at, kicked…those nails can really dig in when a child is scratching the back of the hand. I’ve had my lower eyelid pinched, my cheek held in a firm grip with thumb pinching into my inner cheek.

I’ve built up some close relationships with a couple parents who cannot read and I read notices to them and help fill out forms for them. I’ve watched a friendship forged over a common bond of parents in prison. I’ve been abused by a parent for reminding them gently of the pick-up time and have been swept up in parents celebrating successes –  such as getting a job.

There can be a lot of stress and tension when a team is not working well – it makes the job so hard –  but when you work in a supportive team you can laugh and have fun even through the hard times.

I have made some life-long friendships with my colleagues, we have laughed together and we have cried together and we have looked after each other.  So at the end of the day, a bit like childbirth, we gloss over the tough times and focus on the joy of teaching, the growth and development we have supported in tamariki and the fun we have had together.

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