By Melodie Veldhuizen
“The toddler of today is the nation of tomorrow …” This is the slogan of the Association for the education and care of young children (AECYC). The AECYC believes that the appropriate development and care of toddlers is an asset for our society. Are you still unsure about which career path you would like to follow one day? Do you want to help build a nation for the future? Then pre-school teaching is probably the ideal vocation for you.
What are the most important characteristics of a successful pre-school teacher?
A passion for small children and the desire to really make a difference in their lives, will help you to handle the more difficult aspects of the job, such as ungrateful parents or a small salary.
Patience to answer the same questions time and again and to remind toddlers repeatedly of the same things, such as good manners, hygiene and classroom routine. Besides this, toddlers develop at their own pace and have diverse personalities. The slower child and those with behavioural problems will test your patience to the utmost, as well as difficult parents and colleagues.
Dedication to your career and to the toddlers entrusted to your care. You have to be prepared to stand up for what you believe in – your educational values and the toddlers’ needs. You have to be motivated to inspire the toddlers to want to learn and to bring out only the best in them.
A pleasant and endearing personality. With friendliness, gentleness and endearment the toddlers will be like putty in your hands and you will win their love and respect.
Energy and vitality create an atmosphere that motivates and inspires toddlers to participate in all the activities and discussions.
Expertise. You need to possess thorough knowledge and understanding of everything you teach the toddlers. In this way you will keep their attention and be able to answer their questions as well as encourage them to participate.
Flexible and adaptable so that you can handle any unforeseen and unplanned situation gracefully. You must have Plan B ready when you plan an extramural activity and there is a sudden downpour, or you planned an excursion and suddenly you hear that aren’t sufficient funds.
A good listener and communicator. A toddler wants to know you are listening to him attentively, whether he is telling you what his family did during the weekend, or whether he is asking a question to which he expects an honest answer. You must also be able to communicate well to convey information, answer questions or react appropriately to his story.
Organised so that your classroom is always tidy and will be a safe learning space for the toddlers. Your teaching material, resources and toys should also be kept neat and orderly. Your example teaches the children to also live and work tidily and to clear up after they have done playing.
Maturity to handle the toddlers’ problems and resolve conflict. You must be able to handle every situation appropriately and in so doing set an example.
Compassionate so as to show all the children, especially those who struggle or are sad, that you care. You must be emotionally available to them.
Self-confidence to be able to handle any difficult situation and to adapt to changing circumstances. You must be able to answer any difficult question with self-confidence. And you have to believe that you can influence a child’s life for the better.
Innovative. You must be able to think off the top of your head in any situation. The presentation style of your lessons must always be new and fresh to retain the toddlers’ attention.
Creativity in the classroom entails much more than merely preparing interesting lesson material for the toddlers. You must be creative and make the most of limited resources or a restrictive environment. It also requires creativity to teach toddlers from different cultures and backgrounds. Creativity is also necessary to make the learning process enjoyable and exciting for the toddlers and to maintain it.
Courageous to apply new approaches in your teaching style and to present group discussions and activities in an unconventional way.
A natural leader so that you can influence the toddlers and steer them in the right direction. You must be able to motivate and encourage them.
Interesting. Your style of presentation must be lively, unpredictable and interesting throughout. Always ensure a fresh perspective on the lessons by relating them to personal experiences and situations in their daily lives.
Continuous development. You must strive toward continuous personal growth and development.
Training of pre-school teachers
According to a presentation by the Department of Education attended by members of the AECYC on 4 September 2019, the proposed future requirements for the level of training (2030) are:
ECD: birth to 3/4 years (by 2030): Manager – NQF level 6 ECD qualification; Practitioner and class room aids (assistants) – NQF Level 4 ECD qualification
Grade RR – 4/5 years (by 2030): Educators NQF Level 7 (BEd)
Grade R – 5/6 years (by 2024): Educators NQF Level 7 (BEd)
The Gr R currently is the equivalent of an NQF 6 and the BEd degree is equivalent to an ECD 7.
For a list of accredited training institutions for NQF Level 4, consult SAQA (South African Qualification Authority) at their website: http://regqs.saqa.org.za/showQualification.php?id=58761
Assistant Gr R teacher N6 EDUCARE (SAQA ID 67007) – Oxbridge Academy, Lyceum.
Level 6 Diploma for Grade R teacher: Aros, Unisa, Embury, Lyceum, SANTS, NWU, CPUT.
BEd: All South African universities.
- Where can you work with an applicable pre-school teaching qualification?
Nursery schools, playgroups, day-care, pre-primary sections of primary schools.
For more information regarding the job description, duties, responsibilities and expertise of pre-school teachers, consult:
Career Planner. https://job-descriptions.careerplanner.com/Preschool-Teachers-Except-Special-Education.cfm