Early Childhood Assistant Job Description
For people who enjoy interacting with young kids, becoming an early childhood assistant could be an ideal career. Daycare centers, private preschools, and public schools with programs for pre-kindergarten students hire these workers to serve as all-purpose helpers under the direction of a lead teacher. Hours worked vary by facility, and one in three assistants is employed part-time. In addition to being there during class hours, early childhood assistants may be required to arrive early and stay late to watch extended-day students and monitor transportation. Some early childhood assistants may have summers off if their employer follows a traditional school-year calendar.
Early Childhood Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
An analysis of job listings reveals the following to be among the core tasks expected of those seeking early childhood assistant positions:
Children under the age of five require a good deal of supervision. Early childhood assistants act as another set of adult eyes and ears besides the teacher. They keep tabs on each child’s whereabouts, spot potential conflicts or safety hazards before trouble occurs, and maintain classroom flow by leading lines or directing children to where they need to be.
As the designated helper, early childhood assistants do what they can to keep operations running smoothly. They may trace shapes for students to cut, physically locate a specific book the teacher wants to read to the class, count out cups before snack time, and perform other tasks necessary to an effective learning environment.
Young children often require help to perform routine tasks. Early childhood assistants may be called upon to tie shoes, put straws in juice boxes, reach items on a shelf, find lost mittens, and the like.
Interact with Parents
Being sure each child is released to the proper pick-up person is essential to safety. Early childhood assistants also greet parents upon arrival and dismissal and may talk briefly about activities of the day or answer basic questions.
Small children are capable of large messes, so early childhood assistants are no strangers to cleaning up spills or sweeping up after snacks. They also take measures to promote the overall well-being of the environment, such as wiping off toys and tables with disinfectant cloths.
Some children feel lonely being away from home. Others may have their feelings hurt by others in the class. Good early childhood assistants are sensitive to what kids are experiencing. They may talk to them, offer a lap to sit on, find a solution to a playground dispute, or take similar actions designed to offer support.
Early Childhood Assistant Skills and Qualifications
To thrive as an early childhood assistant, you must genuinely like children. A welcoming demeanor and an abundance of patience also will serve you well. Other good abilities to possess include:
- Communication skills – listening well, talking clearly, and adjusting your vocabulary makes conversing with children more effective
- Physical requirements – keeping up with active children requires good stamina, and much of the day can be spent on one’s feet. Being able to lift children is helpful, as is sufficient manual dexterity to deal with small items such as buttons on coats
- Multitasking – the teacher and the children may make many requests of the early childhood assistant at the same time, so juggling and prioritizing are necessary
- Discretion – though privy to a variety of information about each child, early childhood assistants need to maintain confidentiality and respect privacy
Early Childhood Assistant Education and Training
While some people may be able to land a position as an early childhood assistant with a high school diploma, employers increasingly are preferring applicants with two years of college coursework, a vocational certificate, or an associate’s degree. Post-secondary classes often cover areas such as childhood development, safety, and curriculum development. Training in first aid and CPR is a big plus, as is knowledge of a second language.
Early Childhood Assistant Salary and Outlook
The median annual salary for early childhood assistants, categorized by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) under “teacher assistants,” is $25,410. Workers in the 10th percentile earn less than $18,120, while the highest paid make more than $38,800. Early childhood assistants employed by public or private schools tend to receive a higher salary than those working at child day care services. Depending on the facility and on the number of hours worked, benefits such as healthcare and paid time off may be available.
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026. Teacher assistant positions, however, are often among the first to be eliminated when educational institutions experience financial difficulties.
Early Childhood Assistant Resources
If you’re excited by the prospect of this challenging, yet highly rewarding, career, the following places are excellent to turn to for further information.
Early Childhood Education: Becoming a Professional – this comprehensive guide to early childhood education includes both theories on child development and practical applications for learning environments
National Association for the Education of Young Children – this organization with more than 60,000 members is involved in everything from policymaking to professional standards to support for those who teach kids from birth to eight years of age
Big Questions for Young Minds: Extending Children’s Thinking – this book, published by the aforementioned NAEYC, provides hands-on guidance for helping children to stretch their thinking and contains contributions from some of the most respected names in the field
Early Childhood Education Network – whether you’d like to network with similar-interest peers or have specific questions about career options, this LinkedIn group of more than 50,000 members can be worth your while to check out
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