You love working with children and teaching them new things. You dream of innovative learning environments for kids under the age of seven. Does this sounds like you? If so, you may have just found the perfect field of study.
Children between the ages of two and five years old are the students of preschool teachers. Following their preschool experience, at about age five, children enter kindergarten and begin their formal K-12 grade schooling.
Teachers of preschoolers assist these children in the development of their emotional, intellectual, physical, social, imaginative, and creative abilities. They teach youngsters how to communicate thoughts and feelings. They work with the children to develop their senses and improve their motor skills. They attempt to locate the unique personality traits and abilities of each child, and then endeavor to draw out, enhance and refine those traits, encouraging the children to blossom as individuals. They communicate with parents and with other teachers to keep them abreast of the child’s progress and needs.
The educational requirements for preschool teachers vary widely, from a high school diploma to an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Additionally, teacher certification and licensing requirements differ among states. Some states prefer to hire preschool teachers who have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, for instance. Public schools usually have requirements that are stricter than those for private schools. More education is always a bonus, as the early childhood years are especially formative years, and it is worthwhile from all perspectives for preschool teachers to be specially trained in child development.
There are any number of community colleges, colleges and universities across the country offering courses in early childhood education. Online training programs are also widely available.
Preschool teachers concentrate on training children in basic skills such as color, shape, number and letter recognition, and personal hygiene. They establish and enforce rules of behavior. They organize games and read books aloud to keep the children busy and intellectually stimulated. They help children expand their vocabulary, improve their concepts of math and science, and develop their social skills through fun activities in small groups.
These educators also observe and evaluate the performance, behavior and physical health of each child, in order to identify emotional, developmental, or health-related troubles, which they then discuss with the child’s parents or guardian.
Preschool teachers need to be mature, friendly, patient, organized, creative, energetic, and understanding. They need to be able to communicate clearly with children, as well as with parents and other teachers. Flexibility, spontaneity and a sense of humor also help. People who work in this capacity should be able to anticipate and resolve problems. They should be able to provide fair and gentle discipline, and should possess the interpersonal skills to work well with children as well as with aides, assistants, volunteers and other teachers.
Job opportunities for preschool teachers are expected to be good well into the next decade. However, employment opportunities often depend on the location of the school; job prospects are expected to be better in inner cities and rural areas, for instance, than in suburban districts.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of preschool teachers in 2004 varied between $41,400 and $45,920. These wages are expected to increase by about ten percent over the next few years.