Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education refers to the teaching and development of children from the time they are born until they reach the age of eight years. This span of time is considered the most crucial in terms of intricate intellectual and developmental development: children discover how to crawl, walk, run, speak, and reason, all while creating memories and developing complex thought processes. Early childhood education is about working with these fast, eager learners to convey a number of basic skills which will support them throughout their peak learning years, and beyond. Educators who enjoy working with younger age groups find there are a number of rewarding career options, which includes but is not limited to teachers in elementary education, teaching assistants, psychologists, counselors, child development specialists, and curricula developmental specialists.
Early childhood education can encompass teaching everything from basic establishment abilities in writing and reading, to understanding the concepts of numbers, patterns and letters, and introducing the essential ideas of colors and shapes. Early childhood educators also have woven into their daily instruction the many life and learning skills that are the foundation for successful school, home and community experiences.
Early childhood educational programs are taught at all different levels -- you can earn an associate's degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and even a doctoral degree in early childhood education. Each degree will equip you to embark on an extensive choice of careers in early childhood education, depending on the level of degree you earn -- and each has as its key emphasis the support of children in the preschool and early elementary years. Coursework focuses on child development, the developmental stages of learning and behavior, topics in early childhood education, approaches to learning, special needs, and instruction and learning. Depending on the degree, you may also focus on health and safety, theory and practice and intervention.
As part of your degree program, you will most likely also work as a student teacher or in an internship or practicum with a local educational or research facility. This is invaluable experience, and will allow you to observe seasoned professionals and work with children while supervised. You may also be guided on how to work with specialists and an assessment team, and learning about parent interactions, assessing teaching methods and discovering the latest developments in curriculum.
Skills and Abilities
Working in an early education program is best suited for individuals who are comfortable working with the physical, emotional, social, academic and artistic growth of the youngest of students. You will need to be flexible in your teaching style, in order to work best with the varied abilities of students, be able to work at a consistently high level of energy, be able to engage your analytical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities with you each day, and be tolerant and accepting of the diversity in each classroom.
Individuals who graduate with an associate's degree in early childhood education can find positions as child care workers for private families, and in many child care centers. A bachelor's degree gives you some extra flexibility – as an educator in a child care center or as an early childhood education teacher in both private and public elementary schools. With a master's degree in early childhood education, you may also have the option to work as an administrator and educational leader. A doctorate in early childhood education will allow you all of those options, plus the possibility of teaching elementary education classes to other educators and to oversee research and/or develop curricula.
Whatever you path you choose toward your career in early childhood education, know that you are essential in helping to guide tomorrow’s learners.