After months of interviews and job hunting, someone was finally willing to take a chance on me. In a way, I’m glad it took so long. It’s not that I couldn’t have done the other jobs. Most of the ones I applied for were entry level anyway. It all came together so that I could apply for a job at a local daycare. It was still scary trying to get the interview and then go through a rather long hiring process and every step of the way I was terrified. I mean there was a physical and background check and fingerprinting. I had to list my addresses over the last 28 years. I’m only 21 y’all. I had to try to find every address I’ve ever had. We didn’t move a ton, but every couple of years we had a new address. Some of the places I didn’t even bother to learn because we were only there about a year. Thankfully, my mom remembered most of the ones I didn’t know. All of this work and then I could finally start. Except most of starting was computer training. After what felt like a year, even though it was really only a month, I officially became a substitute in the baby and toddler rooms. If you are considering a job at a daycare, here’s some of the things they don’t tell you when you are hired.
Most kids are very aware of stranger danger!
Some kids are more outgoing and will welcome a new playmate. Other kids are going to be terrified by your presence in the classroom. Most, are going to be in between. They are going to push and test every boundary they can. Don’t be surprised when they demand another teacher helps them or refuse to listen to you at first. They just want to see if they can get away with it. I’ve even had kids try to hit me and untie my shoes! Other coworkers have been smashed with toys and have been bitten. I guess in comparison the shoes thing is pretty minor. The younger the kid is, the more they will be scared of a new face in the room. The older they get, the more they want to push their luck. Let them know you love them and rules are there to keep everyone safe. Eventually, even the most stubborn kids will warm up to you, although they may not like you still. Not everyone in the world will like you and kids are no exception. Try to keep in mind the stress they must feel at someone new.
Not every teacher will share your enthusiasm.
Burn out is going to happen with most jobs and daycare is no exception. Going into it, I had read a bunch of articles about how high the turnover is and how low the pay is. I read about terrible parents and challenging kids. I knew it was going to be hard, but I really truly love working with kids and I figured I would be with others who did too. That wasn’t exactly the case. While most teachers do like the kids in their classes, the toddler room seemed to be an especially negative place. At least once a week the teachers have all said how much they hate their job and how I will learn to hate it once I have been there awhile. Not exactly a warm welcome!! I was shocked how frequently my ideas were shot down. Let’s have circle time after nap. Why don’t we do some exercise games since they can’t go outside now that it’s cold? What about this craft? What kind of a response did I get? No. No. No. I mean I got out puzzles when we had 4 kids (The room maxes at 15 and we usually end up close to that.) and a teacher complained about it because that meant we would have to help them with it. I was really shocked and discouraged by this. I’ve learned to just try new things when that teacher isn’t there. It’s hard being a substitute because the classroom isn’t yours and you don’t have final say on things. It’s definitely hard to find a balance between respecting old ways of doing things and trying new things for the sake of the kids. Ultimately, you don’t have to like your coworkers, but you have to learn to respect them and their experiences.
You will never be financially compensated for all the work you do.
If you are looking for a great job with nice benefits and enough money to live off of, don’t work at a daycare. I am working at a non-profit so I really didn’t expect anything more than minimum wage. I don’t have any degrees in child development or teaching or anything. That being said, I look after your little one all day. I clean up their huge messy diapers. I help potty train. I wash their toys. I pat or rock them to sleep and do everything I can to keep them from screaming their head off because they miss you. Where are the parents in all of this? Some of them are working for sure. Some of them are sleeping. Some are leaving their kids there the maximum hours they can in order to enjoy their adult time. Most teachers end up having to buy things for their classroom. Not every kid has a snack. We bring in tissues and hand sanitizer. Some teachers even bring in toys and spare clothes/shoes for the kids. A lot of teachers go out of their way to make sure the day runs smoothly and sometimes that means taking out of their own tiny paycheck to get things that parents should have brought in the first place. 10 hour days with a half hour lunch break is not always fun. You do the work of at least 2 people and spend part of your check on the classroom. A lot of people have second jobs or a spouse with a high paycheck. Yes, it’s really great working with kids, but it’s hard to sustain yourself over the long term at a job like this.
It will be completely worth it
Even if this isn’t a long-term job for you, there are a lot of great things that will help you. I know more about taking care of babies now than I did from just reading about them. I now have a great list of foods to not send to a daycare. (Seriously guys, the sticky fruit filled bars need to stop.) I get to play with kids and watch them hit milestones that really are amazing. Some of these kids used to be so shy around me and now some of them even come up and hug me when I get to work! Especially given that a lot of these kids have been through more in their 4(ish) years of life than most go through in 20, it is really rewarding knowing you can help these kids feel loved and happy. Also, from a mental health perspective, this job is so much better with my depression and anxiety. It’s still stressful, but it’s much more manageable and makes me feel more “normal.” Honestly, it’s really satisfying coming home every night and knowing that I did my best and made kids smile. I can actually be proud of my work. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and there are days that are frustrating beyond belief, but if you are up for the challenge, working at a daycare may be a great jumping off point to help you move towards your long-term career goals. Who knows, you may like it so much that you stay there forever!