Probably best to give you some background context to this and my reason for writing in the first place. Firstly, and I guess most importantly I’m a mum, a mum to two boys who are my world. I have a 9-year-old, currently in year 4 at school and a 29-month-old who shares his time in the week with myself, family members and two days a week with the most amazing childminders. Also, to add to the mix is the fact that my eldest son has ASD and SPD.
The other important area in my life is my job. I’m a passionate childcare practitioner, no longer on the front line, but as an assessor and trainer. This has been my chosen work sector for the last 23 years and I’ve had a variety of roles within that, as a nanny, family centre practitioner, LA childminding development officer, assessor, independent trainer and FE lecturer.
Someone said to me years ago, before I had my own children, that childcare staff make the worst parents. At the time I totally dismissed this notion as I didn’t understand their reasoning and got quite angry, how dare they? Of course, I was going to be a fantastic parent. I had a wealth of knowledge, I loved children and I was going to be amazing. My children would always come first, I would understand them completely and I would not be like ‘those parents’ who see their job as so important that they’d miss key events in their child’s lives like school plays and assemblies. And I would never put work in front of my children if they were sick.
But guess what, that has been me, I have done those things, but I don’t think that makes me a bad parent. Like many parents I’m lucky enough to be passionate and committed to both parts of my life, but that does leave me in the dilemma of whether I meet the needs of my students and support the time and effort and worry they go too in order to prepare for a visit from me, or the needs of my children who sometimes just need their mum.
You see, I push my students to continually better themselves, yes for them, but ultimately for the children they are caring for. Each time I visit a nursery, pre-school or childminder I want to leave them with a little bit of the passion and drive I have to make great environments for our children, provoke amazing learning opportunities and to ensure that each child they come into contact with feels important and heard. In order to do this I push them to think hard about the children’s all round developmental needs, not just what the EYFS tells us we need to look for. With their activity plans and practice I want them to really understand what they are doing and the benefits to the children. I want them to listen, and I mean really listen to what the children are telling them, both verbally and through their behaviours and body language.
As a parent I encourage my children to be independent, to flourish in whatever their interests are and to have their views and thoughts respected and to support them to be the best that they can be. With my eldest who has additional needs, this can be a much harder task as I need to be more of his advocate, to fight for him to get the services and support he needs to thrive.
But does the parent in me push the passionate views on effective, supportive childcare or does the passionate childcare worker push me to be the best parent I can be? Do I just have an innate drive to support all children I come into contact with? Or is this based on the great training I had when I completed my NNEB childcare diploma at the start of my career?
I do feel that how you start your chosen career, how positive your training is, how supportive your tutors are and the experiences that you have during that time are key and can stay with you throughout your time in your chosen sector. I can still remember some of the lessons I had when I was 17 years old. I remember one tutor in particular and her persistence and continual push in supporting me and my class to understand the importance of play and opportunities for children, and I still use some of that learning today in my practice and my own teaching delivery, although I’m not sure I can say the food tech element of my NNEB is still working for me!
Yes you can ‘learn’ all about childcare from your reading material and the lessons you attend, but you need to have that passion in the first place, you need to ‘want’ to get up in the morning and face the day ahead in the nursery, or that knock at the door as the children are dropped off with you. You need to forget all about the journey you’ve had getting to work, the issues at home or the fact that you’ve had a tough time with your own children that morning. You need to open that door to every child who walks through, to allow them to be the most important person in your world for that moment in time, in order for them to feel emotionally ready to engage in the day ahead.
I certainly don’t get it right every day, not by long way. But I’m driven by all the children and practitioners I work alongside, and by my own two boys, to do the very best that I can, to help them be the very best they can be.
Cheryl Bedding is the lead Trainer and Assessor at Today Training Services