Why I left the childcare industry
From Educator to Nanager.
I loved working in Childcare. I spent over six years in the industry, working across all age groups, as an educator and an assistant. I am a passionate educator and it was a very rewarding career. What other job do you turn up to hear your name being called out, followed by 20 little best friends lined up to give you a hug? I loved the creative outlet I received through craft and educating via the EYLF. I loved watching children grow and learn through play and facilitating activities based on their interest as they explored with full engagement. You would think with all of these positive aspects I would have found a reason to stay within the industry but there were two major factors that came into play and resulted in me walking away.
The paperwork – I remember the day I had the epiphany that Childcare was no longer for me. It was inside playtime and I was hunched over my laptop trying to complete my observations because I already used my allocated Educator programming time to get the “what-we-did-today” book finished. I was interrupted by a giggling group of 5-year-old girls who wanted to show me how funny their dress ups were. I remember their faces falling when they realised I wasn’t taking in what they were saying, simply offering a “Wow, that’s cool” as I turned back to the laptop, hardly offering a smile. “Miss Lauren do you want to come and play with us” one of them offered. “Oh I can’t sorry girls, I need to get this paperwork done.” As they turned to walk away my stomach sunk. I joined Childcare to work with children and here I was turning down a child’s request to play, to complete paperwork that no one would likely read. That's not the kind of educator I wanted to be.
"I joined Childcare to work with children and here I was turning down a child’s request to play, to complete paperwork that no one would likely read. That's not the kind of educator I wanted to be."
Let me make it clear, I’m a hard working educator. Almost every day I did at least half an hour unpaid to get on top of my workload. Whether I was starting early, staying back or shortening my lunch break I gave this job everything I had. Week after week I had my cleaning list ticked off, fridge temperatures recorded and incident reports vigilantly filled out. The Educator programming book was filled with photos and stories that offered the evidence we had to provide to show that we were following the guidelines and educating the children correctly. The only time my documentation fell behind was when I used my time with the children to play with the children, rather than sneaking away for extra paperwork time. Turning down playing with the children in favour of extra programming was a common occurrence in every centre I ever worked for.
Two hours a week for all programming wasn’t enough and unless I was willing to put in unpaid time, I was set up to fail. The director couldn’t offer more because the roster budget wouldn’t allow it. Even in the lead up to accreditation (where we scored “Exceeding”) the team and I were putting in weeks of unpaid Saturdays. The level of documentation expected of educators is unrealistic and most importantly, unfair to the kids.
The politics – It saddens me to admit, but at times working in childcare was just like being back in high school. I can’t believe my inner feminist is letting me say this but being a predominantly female industry, the catty and bitchy cultures were an ongoing theme to my time in Childcare centres. Don’t get me wrong, I worked for some incredible centres and directors who to this day still inspire me but some of my worst experiences as an employee and colleague were in Childcare. I saw many women (including myself) bullied, taken advantage of and worked to exhaustion with very little thanks. That kind of environment is not conducive to women helping each other achieve their best and it's exactly the mentality we're trying to eliminate with Nanager.
There is little room for change and I was forever watching innovative, promising educators pushed out of centres for simply thinking out of the box. Directors are typically educators who work their way to the top and I’ve known some to be at the same centre and role for 30+ years. There is no HR department to go to and not much content on people management included in the qualification to become a director. This means that challenging such leadership was exhausting and usually frivolous because of the “my way or the highway” mentality. My problem was never with who was right versus who was wrong, it was with the way these decisions and conversations were managed. The leadership was often biased to their own motive and driven by emotion and pride. Most centres don’t have a manager position (someone trained in people management) so the outcome of each conflict rested on the director’s decision. I have worked under some great directors who were open minded and approachable but based on my experience, those directors are few and far between. I saw so many incredible educators leave the industry because the aftermath of speaking up and asking big questions just wasn’t worth sticking around.
"Being a predominantly female industry, the catty and bitchy cultures were an ongoing theme to my time in Childcare. That kind of environment is not conducive to women helping each other achieve their best and it's exactly the mentality we're trying to eliminate with Nanager."
My story of childcare is that of my own and as mentioned, there were some beautiful moments working in childcare and I adore being an educator. Unfortunately, the politics and paperwork were problems I couldn’t see a solution for so I decided to seek work outside the industry. The universe listened and I was poached by a Mum to see if I was interested in being a nanny. It didn't take long for the job to evolve into the more tailored service of a Nanager.
It was the best decision I ever made and 3 years on, I haven’t looked back!
The benefits of educating as a Nanager.
The main scenario for the use of the EYLF is through Educators within a centre but, many overlook the beautiful learning journey a professional Nanager can offer by implementing the EYLF in the home.
Lower ratios mean more tailored and customised learning journeys. On average, Nanagers only care for 2 – 3 children and this lower ratio means I am able to truly customise a child’s learning journey and explore their interest because I’m not trying to cover an entire class at once. As an educator, I was under too much pressure to deliver paperwork and meet compliance that I often rushed or overlooked interests that would have been a great opportunity to extend further down a learning path. Having fewer children means less documentation and therefore more time to spend with the child(ren).
The freedom to use the world as a learning tool. Exploring a learning path outside of a centre meant I was faced with the heavy logistics that came with planning an excursion. It’s impossible to tailor an outing that covers an interest from every child and the experiences were often rushed and highly stressful. Being a Nanager gives me the freedom to explore the world and deliver a learning experience that is truly customised and personal. Whether it be exploring sea creatures at the aquarium or taking the city loop for the train enthusiast, I am able to introduce each child to the world through hands-on and first-hand experience.
Children use hands-on experience to explore the world around them. As they move through the world with their professional Nanager at their side they practise developmental skills to increase their real world perception. Introducing a child to the world is one of my favourite parts of being a Nanager. Whether we are holding up the self-checkout line so Miss 5 can scan the groceries, or following the garbage truck down the street to watch the rubbish collection -the children can experience first hand how the world works and the role they will play within society.
An authentic exploration of the ELYF. As a Nanager I find much more freedom to follow the ELYF path where ever it may take us. Sensory exploration goes beyond the sandpit to the beach, hide and seek can be in a new playground every day and children can undertake an adventure in the big wide world all while having a nanny by their side, dedicated to providing them with a magical play journey into learning.
I love that I have the freedom to create a curriculum based on my own philosophy and favourite theorists. Every child is different and as a Nanager, I can cater to this. One child may need support while another thrives off being independent. One child may learn through watching while another learns through doing. Some children I plan play dates for to socialise while others have me on days off childcare and they need some quiet moments of solitude. The early years are vital for a child’s growth and as a Nanager I can introduce each child to the world around them in customised learning path based on their needs.
Make the change.
I’m not saying all educators should make the leap to becoming a Nanager, it’s not for everyone. I wish there was someone to talk to when I was considering the change and I want to be that voice. I’m passionate about quality educators entering the private childcare industry and offering their experience and qualification to children in the home.
Through Nanager, I am able to offer the support and guidance for educators which is currently lacking in other parts of the industry. There's not many people fighting in their corner, we want to be those people. If you are an educator looking to make the change I would love to talk to you.