Early childhood education and teaching programs prepare people to work in schools and preschools. Students learn the principles of teaching young children up to the third grade level. They also learn to direct and operate childcare centers.
Puzzles. Finger paints. Books with bright pictures. Counting beads. Colorful carpets and games with friends. Preschool. Ahh, those were the days. Playing for hours at preschool. But what was all that play about? Puzzles taught you spatial skills. Painting taught you creativity and how to make shapes. Hearing someone read to you got you familiar with words. Counting beads taught you to – of course –count! Playing with friends taught you social skills. And of course, there was that special teacher who made you feel good about your accomplishments.
You can become that special teacher yourself by enrolling in an early childhood education program. In this program, you learn how young minds learn and develop. You learn how to promote a child's learning in many areas, including physical, social, emotional, and mental. You study child psychology, how to use technology in the classroom, and how to measure student progress. You also learn about different subject matter, from reading to math to art. You then use this information to learn how to plan creative and stimulating activities and materials. And through student teaching, you get to apply the information that you've learned and try out ideas that you've developed.
Some programs allow you to focus on a specific subject area. For example, you might concentrate on language arts. This would allow you to concentrate your teaching on helping children learn to read and speak well.
Many colleges and universities offer programs in early childhood education. You can earn a bachelor's, a master's, or a doctoral degree in this program of study. In general, a bachelor's degree takes about four years of full-time study after high school. Graduate degrees typically take two to five years to complete after your bachelor's degree.
You can also earn a postbaccalaureate certificate. One-year certificate and two-year associate degree programs in early childhood education are designed to prepare people to work with preschool children or as teacher aides in schools. Some two-year educational aide programs allow students to specialize in classroom aide, bilingual/bicultural aide, students with disabilities, and vocational-technical education.
As an early childhood teacher, you can work in public and private schools, day-care centers, camps, kindergartens, and other similar places.