Early Childhood Education Degrees Tips

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I'm not a teacher now but I want to become one. How do I do that?

Education As A Second Career

Many people are deciding to pursue second degrees and professions later in life. And the teaching area always benefits from those decisions.

Teachers Count (teacherscount.org) lists several organizations for those who wish to become teachers but have other life experiences and degrees. Those included are Troops to Teachers, which helps military personnel to become educators in multiple fields, including elementary education; Teach for America, which helps those recently graduated and those who are bridging over to find work in urban and under-funded areas; and multiple regional programs.

   
How do I deal with the different kinds of students I'll teach?

Diversity Of Students

America is called the melting pot for a reason. People arrive here everyday looking for a better life, better work, and better education. Along with their individual dreams, they have their own ideas, religions, though processes, and biases.

As an early childhood educator, this can work to your advantage or disadvantage. No matter what the ethnicity of the child, ideally the best approach is to treat all the children the same. Problem is, all children are different and how you approach and teach them can be as well.

One of the best ways to address this issue is to start with yourself. Go back and analyze if you have any particular biases and why.

  • Do you talk to girls and boys differently?
  • Do you expect more from a white child than a black child or Hispanic child?
  • Do you expect less from a child of color?
  • Do you have a bias against alternative couples or traditional couples who are not married but have children? Will that translate to how you treat their child?
  • Do you assume all children from the Middle East are Muslim?
  • Do you assume all Asian children are Buddhist?
  • Are you anti-religion that isn't Christian and can you teach students who are not?
Always keep an open dialogue with the children, encouraging them to ask you questions directly or through a note (signed or unsigned) and watch body language with the children. Does a little girl suddenly become withdrawn when you start asking other children about their parents? Does a little boy act out when asking about summer vacation?

If you aren't sure about your own biases or interactions with student diversity, take a class on the subject or ask the college about programs that address the issue. What you may think is an innocent remark may be offensive to someone else. Although you can't make everyone happy, you can open your eyes wider to other ideas, thought processes, and religious beliefs. You just may get more out of the discussion than you realize and it can point you on the path of becoming an amazing educator.

   
What grade to you want to teach?

What Age To Teach

Earning a degree in early childhood education can be incredibly rewarding. Those eager-to-learn minds staring at you everyday, waiting to be fed with more knowledge is what every educator dreams about. Then reality sets in and you find out it's much more complicated than that.

One of the best ways to find out what grade you want to teach is ask yourself what age of child's company do you enjoy the most? Do you have a niece who's five and a delight because she's constantly asking questions? Do you have a son who's seven who wants to learn about multiplication tables? Do you have a friend's child who's four who you can't stand to be around because of how demanding she is?

Then venture back to your school days and try to decide what grade you enjoyed the most and why. Try and remember what subjects you liked the most and which you hated. Ask other teachers who teach the ages and subjects you might be interested in about curriculum, teaching plans, the personalities of the children, their likes and dislikes of their jobs, and any other questions that come to mind.
Do your homework before deciding on your degree plan and save yourself a huge amount of time and distress.

   
What if I suspect child abuse?

Bringing The Home To The Classroom

Early childhood education training also includes recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect. It's a sad fact of teaching, but it's possible you will encounter a child you suspect is being abused. But many teachers suffer with the "crossing the line" syndrome -- with our society being so litigious, many teachers and administrators may feel intimidated to say anything for fear of being wrong.

If your degree plan doesn't require it, taking additional training on recognizing the signs of child abuse and neglect should be a class or certification you take the initiative to attend. There are multiple websites and books offered to help early childhood educators recognize the "non-verbal" signals a child will exhibit when being verbally, physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. Falling grades, changes in personality (more aggressive, less interactive), poor hygiene, no lunch sent to school, no money to purchase lunch, and weight loss are all signs an educator should watch closely and talk to their school officials about it.

The Department of Child Welfare has an educator's checklistfor those who suspect child abuse. Go through the list and decide if this situation requires intervention. Keep in mind that "a gut feeling" is just as rational as physical findings.

Keeping an open line of dialogue is essential for the students as well as the educator. You may be the only person the child feels safe with, and school may be their only neutral zone. Approaching the student about the problem directly may be a way to scare the child away, but simply let them know you are there to answer any questions they may have.

One thing to keep in mind, don't let your personal biases cloud your judgement when suspecting child abuse or neglect such as "she's a single mother" or "their father is of this race," etc. This could open the doors to a huge liability situation so approach the situation with concern and be sure to document your findings and observations. If you talked to the parents or guardians, document their reactions exactly. Instead of saying, "I talked to the mother and she used profanities at me." It's better to write, "I talked to the mother and she said-------------- and then grabbed the child by the arm and pulled him to the car." This gives the reader of the report specific wording and actions instead of opinions. Keep close watch on the children you suspect of being abused, document, and report what you find. If you aren't sure of what exactly to watch for, check with your college, school district, or local child welfare office to find out when there will be classes on recognizing the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect.

   
How much time does it take to earn an elementary educator degree?

Time Commitment For Early Childhood Education Degree

An early childhood education degree can take four to five years in a traditional setting to complete. In an online program, it can take as little as two years, if you have all the pre-requisites completed or an Associates of Arts degree, depending on your determination and drive. When discussing the degree plan, ask about "life experience credits" as well. This can help reduce the amount of classes you will need and push your graduation date up.

   
How do I get practical experience?

Benefits Of Educational Volunteering

Volunteering can also give you the motivation you need to finish your education. Many times we are all bogged down with life, work, school, and family obligations, but volunteering can be the smile in your day that keeps you going. In a study released by Johns Hopkins, it was stated that volunteering was a "win-win" situation for the volunteer and the people for whom they were helping.

Teaching early childhood education can be intimidating so how do you know if you are cut out to teach a classroom of active and excited 8 year olds? Volunteer. By volunteering, you are able to spend time with kids in a lesser-stressed environment than a classroom. It can give you a much better perspective of the students as well as the curriculum.

Teachers Count (teacherscount.org) has several links to websites that help potential educators find hands-on experiences with teaching. If your kids are in school, ask the teachers about volunteer opportunities. This could prove to work very well with family commitments and you may have more interaction time with your children. Local churches could have volunteer programs and welcome those who wish to help out.

Being a volunteer can also give you multiple perspectives of teaching without the constraints of a classroom setting. Many employers look favorably on those who volunteered during their college/university experience and it could play to you advantage when it's seen on your resume. It's a great way to network and possibly find employment once you have earned your degree. Finally, if you're working and going to school, it can also be a great way to get your employer involved through fund raising or just recruiting others to volunteer as well.

   
How much does a degree cost?

Costs Of An Early Childhood Education Degree

Earning an early childhood education degree will take four to five years. The last two years can be taken at an faster rate if you are enrolled in an accelerated program (online or traditional). The prerequisites will take the first couple of years (again, may be taken at a faster rate if classes are taken online) followed by the specific classes in elementary education. Talk to your college or university of choice and ask them about their accelerated programs if you are interested in finishing sooner than four years.

   
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