Looking back, here’s what ECEC professionals wish they knew on their first day
The Sector > Jobs News > Looking back, here’s what ECEC professionals wish they knew on their first day

Looking back, here’s what ECEC professionals wish they knew on their first day

by Freya Lucas

February 23, 2023

Starting a new career involves taking a big leap of faith – will I be any good at this? What if I don’t know the right answers? Am I doing the right thing? – along with a huge amount of excitement about the new pathways emerging in front of you. 


With strong government support, and with many scholarships and incentives to attract people in to the exciting and ever changing world of early childhood education and care (ECEC), there’s never been a better time to make a difference in the life of a child, and to be part of a sector that supports children, families and society to thrive. 


To help new professionals entering the sector and those thinking about making the jump, we reached out to our experienced readers who hold positions across many facets of ECEC and asked: “What do you wish you knew on your first day?” 


Connect with authenticity 


One of the top themes from our respondents was about the importance of making genuine connections in ECEC – whether it’s with colleagues, children, families or across the profession, relationships are everything in this sector. 


“Every parent, staff member and child has their own story, and are doing their best with what they know, and can manage. Kindness and working in partnership will create opportunities for growth for everyone. ECEC is about working with and connecting with people in their most authentic way.” Michelle. 


You’re important, and you’ll make a difference here


Many respondents talked about the sacred and special nature of being trusted to partner with children and families on a journey that sets them up for life. Far more than just a job, working in ECEC is a responsibility to show up every day and to bring the best of yourself for the children and the families in your care. 


You become the recipient of so much love and care from the children,” Nina shared. 


You’re crucial to countless children and families,” Cassandra added. “Your contribution to children’s early learning and development will set them on their life path.”


Self care is a must 


Readers might be familiar with the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and this is something which came through loud and clear from our respondents, who wanted to tell those new to the sector to take care of themselves so that they can care for others. 


Take your vitamins!” Barbi said, “and probiotics, and armaforce when you feel something coming on. In 20 years I rarely did and I wish I would have. You need to look after yourself. Yes, the children’s needs are important, but we are no good if we don’t look after ourselves.” 


On a practical level, our experienced brainstrust want ‘newbies’ to always keep a spare set of clothes – including socks and underwear – in their car or at the service, and to spend more on the shoes that will protect your back from screaming at you at the end of the day. 


Never stop learning 


Some might think that once they have a qualification, the learning stops and the real work begins. This, our respondents said, is a myth. 


“Ask questions!” Barbi said. “I used to go in and observe but not say a lot on practices I wasn’t sure of as I was new and still learning. I wish I spoke up more at the time, either to learn more for myself, or to question why and push for change if I saw negative practices that were impacting children.” 


There will be endless opportunities for professional development and collaboration,” Susan added. 


Cassie had a slightly different perspective, saying “when you open your mind you will also open your heart,” as a reminder of the multitude of different perspectives in the sector, all of which bring opportunities for reflection and growth. 


Be your own strongest advocate


A number of our readers shared the importance of knowing where to go for answers.


Know the content of the Award,” Jessica said. “It will protect you and you will know your rights…things like you can’t be paid for a staff meeting with food, and that home time is not for working.” 


Katie agreed, recommending that educators “need to find ways to stay informed without relying on their manager”. 


The Award, regulations, sector updates, child safeguarding and child protection are some of the many resources which can support, she continued.


It’s important to know where to find the regulations, and how to interpret them. Educators need to understand the difference between what is regulated and what is service policy.” 


The final word


Sarah excitedly welcomed those new to the profession with this final word: “you will learn something new. Every. Single. Day.”

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