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Child Care and Education

4 Roles and Responsibilities of an Early Childhood Education Teacher

Versatility is the hallmark of an early childhood educator. While working with children is challenging, it also offers regular rewards! Here are just a few of the many roles you'll take on as an ECE teacher.

Desiree Sinkevich

Des Sinkevich

Versatility is the hallmark of an early childhood educator. Just as children express many diverse thoughts and emotions, you must be able to adapt to and guide them on their colorful journey through life. The most effective early childhood education teachers are flexible, attentive, and always willing to learn. It’s a challenging role, but one that offers great rewards each day. Here are just a few of the many roles you’ll take on as an ECE teacher.

What is early childhood education?

Early childhood education covers the education – whether formal or informal – of children from birth to about 8 years old. It’s a broad term that can cover daycare, preschool, and kindergarten.


In early childhood education (ECE), teachers and child care professionals focus on providing the basic education that can allow a child to grow and develop at the right pace.


Read more: What is a Child Care Professional?


What is an early child educator?

An early childhood educator can be a daycare teacher, preschool teacher, or assistant teacher who works with kids from infancy to about 6-8 years of age. Primarily, they’ll work in daycares, preschools, child care facilities, and elementary schools. ECE teachers can also work in both private and public education settings, though the rules and requirements to be a teacher can vary in these different environments.


They play different roles in their jobs, and often focus on the following!


1. Looking for milestones

The first role you'll have is that of a guide. It's your job to present exciting new paths to children and steer them toward success and away from harm. It's not always easy to keep a child engaged and interested. New teachers may struggle to find new experiences and activities to share with their students. Remember that encouragement leads to achievement. Listen to and observe children's learning and playing styles to uncover activities that resonate with them. Praise their positive accomplishments and keep track of their progress to show them and their parents how far they've come.


Read more: How to Become a Preschool Teacher (6 Things to Know Before You Start)


2. Developing social skills

Early childhood is a significant period of development. Social skills play an enormous role in how children will interact with their peers, parents, teachers, as well as everyone they meet throughout their lives.


It's your role not only to encourage communication, but to listen carefully to a child's words and actions. Movements, facial expressions, and other behaviors hold important clues about a child's needs, learning style, and interests.


Rather than coerce social interaction, early childhood teachers nurture social growth through fun and positive activities. There's no standardized formula for success; each child develops social skills at their own pace and in their own unique way. It's up to you to recognize these qualities and nourish them.


Read more: Benefits of Dramatic Play in Early Childhood Education


3. Talking to parents

As an ECE teacher, you'll communicate not only with children, but with parents, staff, school administrators, and other community members. Many new teachers think they should have all the answers, but this simply isn't possible. Often times parents, relatives, coaches, and other role models hold valuable keys that can help you better understand a child. Don't be afraid to ask questions, seek advice, share your thoughts, and work together with others. Teamwork is especially crucial in finding solutions to developmental delay.


Read more: How to Write a Preschool Lesson Plan


4. Organizing it all

When you're not interacting with children or adults, you'll be managing the classroom and materials. This includes planning lessons, tidying the classroom, keeping track of paperwork, formulating new activity ideas, and investing in new learning materials. It's a tough task, but one that will help children reach their full potential.


What skills do early childhood educators have?

Early childhood educators should be compassionate, patient, creative, organized, and have great communication skills. On an average day, they’ll work with many different personalities – both the children they teach and care for, and the children’s parents.


An ECE teacher needs to be able to be both caring and firm, especially with younger children as they learn boundaries and social skills. They should also be enthusiastic and passionate about what they do, with a strong desire to help and nurture children of all ages! Working with kids can be a tough but rewarding job, so loving what you do is a must.


Read more: How to Get the Education to Work with Children


Early childhood teacher requirements

The requirements to be an early childhood teacher can vary based on where you live and what specific job you want in the field. To become a teacher in a daycare, for example, you generally need to have finished high school and passed a federal and criminal background check. Beyond that, if you want to advance in your role, you’ll need to get your Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate.


For some ECE jobs, you may need to have a college degree, such as an ECE associate degree.


If you’d like to become a preschool teacher or work in an elementary school, you’ll likely need at least a bachelor’s degree and pass a state licensing exam. In any job working with kids, you’ll also need to pass a background check, whether you’re working in a daycare, a school, or a play facility.


Read more: How to Become a Preschool Teacher


Become an ECE teacher online with Penn Foster

Early childhood education is filled with challenges, rewards, and memorable moments for both teacher and child. With patience and an open mind, you can help steer the next generation toward a life filled with great accomplishments.


Besides beginning a career you love that allows you to make a difference, the need for trained early childhood teachers is projected to grow 15% by 2031, much faster than average! With more positions becoming available every day, now is the perfect time to take the next step toward preparing for a job in the field. Want to know more about starting your Early Childhood Education Degree or CDA Certificate online? Reach out to an Admissions Specialist at Penn Foster today at 1.888.427.6500!


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