Becca knew from the age of seven that she wanted to become a kindergarten teacher. “I think it was because Mum worked as an early childhood teacher when I was young and took me into work sometimes, and I saw how happy it made her.”
As with most teaching qualifications, a quota of practical hours must be completed over the course of the three-year degree at Unitec. Becca subsequently worked for six years at a preschool, focusing mainly on under-2s, before moving into more of a managerial role. This meant more paperwork and less time with the kids, however, so after a while Becca moved overseas and spent a year teaching English to children in South America and Africa, before returning to New Zealand to teach at a kindergarten for children from one to five.
“I love the fact that we work with children rather than telling them what to do – you can start teaching them a love of learning. I love just being right there at that ground level and teaching them the skills that they’ll need throughout their education.”
Becca knows that being a friend to the children is central to her teaching role, as is having a good sense of fun. “When you’re doing the Pukeko Stomp in front of 40 adults who have come to watch their children, you can’t take yourself too seriously.”
Patience, understanding and, most importantly, being open to change are also crucial requirements, Becca has learned. “You constantly change, the more you teach. I’m a completely different teacher now from what I was 10 years ago – just as the kids grow and learn, you do too!”
Teaching children who are at such a young age presents many challenges, some of which can be a little tricky. “Being an early childhood teacher especially, you work with not just the child but with their whole whānau,” says Becca. “So that can be tricky because sometimes whānau want things for their children that you know they›re not quite ready for yet, and finding a compromise is difficult, but part of the job.»
Becca believes that being an early childhood teacher is the most rewarding job there is. “Every day I go home with a sense of accomplishment, like this job is so rewarding! Even a small victory is huge with this age group. At three and four they’re just doing things for the love of it, not because they have to, and you›re there to help them develop that love, passion and interests.
“Every day I go home feeling like at least I did something today. Especially on the social side, when they learn how to go and find a new friend – that is a massive victory. When they learn to start writing their name, that›s a huge victory. When they can come in and not cry for their mum and dad for the first time, that›s a huge victory. Or when you can make someone feel better who has fallen over and hurt themselves, that›s a victory in my book.”
As if being a kindergarten teacher isn’t already rewarding enough, becoming a mother will only add to her daily victories. With a baby on the way, Becca will be starting a family of her own and says with certainty that after her year of maternity leave she will be raring to get back to work at Lynfield Kindergarten and will by then have a new student to introduce to her class.
For all aspiring early childhood teachers, Becca has a few words of wisdom: “I would recommend that you do anything where you can have practical experience. Sometimes you can do a whole degree and then get a job but decide that you actually don›t like it. But just get in there and do it. Give it a go first, because it can be challenging but also very rewarding.”