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Amelia: life as an Early Years Teacher
‘A career where you work hard but the rewards are worth it’
Amelia Joyner is an Early Years Teacher with a Level 6 Qualification. She has been the leader of a pre-school in Devon for just over two years and is also a Specialist Early Years Professional, which involves tracking children who are vulnerable to under achievement. When she’s not at pre-school, Amelia is mum to three children who are 7, 10 and 12 years old.
Amelia explains in her own words the motivation behind her career, the hard work she puts in and the rewards that are received on a daily basis:
“I didn’t start out working with children, in fact the path that led me to my career is fairly different. I was a Recruitment Consultant for a really long time, which I did love, because it involved talking to lots of different people, asking lots of questions and generally getting to know people. Then I was a PA, before starting a family.
Once I had my daughter and she started at a pre-school, I just became really involved. Like lots of people, I started volunteering, joined the committee, was the Treasurer and then Chairperson and then started to work on the admin side there.
Being involved with the pre-school and watching the practice there made me realise that I wanted to get involved. I just knew then that I wanted to work with children, so I continued to work in the admin post and then retrained.
When I did my first degree, someone once said to me that I should become a teacher. But at the time, I just didn’t have experience of being with children. I think that’s why so many people in childcare are mums. You want to do the best for other children, and follow values that you did for your own.
Amelia already had a degree and so her training to be an Early Years Teacher was fairly short and straightforward:
“I’ve got an art degree and so I retrained to be an Early Years Teacher by completing a one- year Early Years Teacher Training course. It didn’t matter that my degree wasn’t early years related and it allowed me to do the full-time post graduate training over 12 months. This consisted of going to Uni about a day a week and then the rest of the time I was out on placement.
I started looking for a ‘leader job’ about half way through my Early Years Teacher course. I was looking on Devon Jobs website and it came up and I applied for it straightaway. It was the right role, in a town that I had grown up in, so it felt like the right job for me. My tutor in Taunton was amazing and with her support and reference I got the job!”
Amelia has now been the leader at her pre-school for over two years and explains that it’s quite a unique setting:
“We look after about 36 children a day, with 76 children in total on the register. Being a pre-school, we’re open from 9.10am to 3.10pm term-time only. I have a team of 14 staff and I’m also a Specialist Early Year’s Professional in tracking children who are vulnerable to under achievement. I think there’s only about 7-8 specialists in different topics in Devon, so we’re often asked to share this expertise with other settings.
We’re also particularly insightful with children with additional needs and working with children whose lives are quite difficult. I thought that would be upsetting at first, but it’s actually working with those families and seeing changes that drives me the most!”
In fact, the challenges that Amelia expected, turned out to be some of the most rewarding parts of the job:
“I knew that I wanted to concentrate on getting to know the children and their families. I felt really strongly that being involved with the whole family was the right thing for children that are in Early Years Education. Understanding what their life is like at home is really important and understanding any additional needs that are required. I knew that I would find this really interesting and something that I wanted to tackle.
I expected the challenges that arise, with safeguarding issues and upsetting family situations, that could be really difficult and I worried about how I was going to cope with that. But actually I feel very driven and passionate about this area and now I focus on it really heavily. Seeing children make progress when they are vulnerable to underachievement is really great and as a team we feel proud that what we do really works.
I actually find it positive to deal with it now as I know that what I do makes a difference to those children and that for me is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.”
In Amelia’s role, no two days are the same but all days are filled with hard work and fun!
“I get to work quite early and organise myself with planning for the day. The structure of our day is varied, but we always meet for group times where I might lead an activity for particular groups of children. Then we have free-flow where we have lots of adult-led activities around the pre-school and nurture groups focusing in small groups on speech and language or literacy or building confidence. My focus is very much making sure that all of the things that the adults are doing involve interacting brilliantly with the children and that the children are interested. Then it’s about making change where needed as the day goes along, to make sure that the children are exposed to different learning opportunities.
Throughout the day, I will be doing observations on children and staff and keeping an eye on any children that I have concerns about. I might catch up with parents if they have any worries about their child. Then there’s a busy lunchtime session and in the middle of the day we have some children leave and some arrive for the afternoon.
I have my own key worker responsibilities as I am keyworker for ten children, so I keep all of those up-to-date and of course attend any safeguarding meetings, catch up with my admin manager, amongst many other things!
There are days where things happen that can throw you off course, but you just adapt and carry on. I have never worked anywhere where the day goes so fast.
But whatever the day presents, the biggest thing that I try to do for all of the children is to just give them really fantastic experiences. So we try to keep things new and different all of the time. We have lots of visits, we go out, we do Forest School. The things that we plan range from making a volcano one day, to whipping up purple fairy foam outdoors the next. It’s all about that adult support, the interactions and talking with the children whilst you’re doing an activity that make the difference. Sitting still, listening and repeating language and giving them the skills to be confident when it’s time for them to go to school is so important.”
Nothing stays still in this sector, which presents new learning and training opportunities:
In my job, it’s very interesting to keep up with the new schools of thought which happen all the time. Currently I’m learning more about children with sensory difficulties.
Devon are good at keeping on top of new trends and data, just recently there has been a drive on communication and language so I am always moving forwards with learning and attending courses locally and further afield. It’s interesting to be at the forefront of thinking and it’s something that we can put into practice in our daily work.
If you’re considering a career in Early Years, Amelia explains that there are certain qualities that someone going into this area should possess:
“If you are interested in working with children, either changing career or straight from college, then I would say absolutely do it! You have to put the children first, put them at the heart of what you do and give it your total commitment.
You need to be calm, kind and insightful to be able to be tune into the needs of children and really love being with children. If you have these qualities, then it’s immensely fun and you will love it!
Things happen every day that make you smile. Today I have observed children making their own puppet show without needing an adult to help them and there are lots of proud moments – we have a little boy that is typically quiet but with the right activity today – making salt dough leaves – he thrived, and today he just beamed all day.
The fact that it’s term time only mean that I get to work really hard for 6-7 weeks at a time, but then I get the rest of the holidays off to spend the time with my own children. It’s important to me not to miss my own child’s assembly or sports day and this career does offer little windows to pop out and do this. It fits with family life and I support my staff to do the same. It’s important to me to lead by example in all areas.
But it’s also a good career for young people too that are leaving school and college. We finish work at 3.45pm so people can have interests outside of work, plus there are lots of training opportunities and the potential for a long career. It’s never the same, it always moves on. There are lots of directions you can go in and it’s easy to move up.
We just make such a difference – the happy faces and the learning, it’s a really fulfilling job to do. It’s a brilliant career and you couldn’t ask for more.”