Many potential jobs exist for early childhood teachers, rendering it difficult to come up with a single definition of what these professionals may do. Even training levels can differ, and people in this field may have degrees up to the doctorate level. Some, more properly called early childhood or day care workers, have minimal training and may not even possess a bachelor’s degree. When the term teacher is used, this usually means the person has, at minimum, bachelor’s degree level training.
The simple answer to the question of what many early childhood teachers do is to say that they teach. They could work with children in pre-school, nursery school or daycare settings designing and implementing curriculum that is in keeping with the education and development theories that apply to young learners. Theories on learning capacity and development of children are typically taught in college, but they aren’t always the same. Depending on the philosophical bent of a particular place of employment, an early childhood teacher could work in very different ways. Even with a degree, some teachers are asked to complete extra training if they work for programs like Waldorf or Montessori.
Early childhood teachers are not restricted to teaching at the pre-school level. Many possess teaching credentials and could be employed in public or private schools to teach kindergarten up to third grade. In this capacity, teachers must usually design curriculum that meets school district standards, and they may teach 20 or more students at a time. They evaluate student work, work with students on acquiring skills, and meet with parents to address concerns. Again, special knowledge about child development in these early years often makes these teachers especially adept at working with the age population of students they instruct.
Some people who are early childhood teachers have advanced degrees, earning either master’s degrees or doctorates in this subject. These degrees broaden the range of what these teachers could do. Upper level degrees might mean a teacher works not only with students but also takes supervisory roles in daycare or preschool settings. They could own, design, run, and/or manage pre-elementary school environments.
Such teachers might also be responsible for creating curriculum for others to use in early childhood education. Many people design learning programs, write educational materials for young children, or complete research that could address ways early childhood education is administered and suggest changes. People who complete work at the doctorate level might join think tanks that assess early childhood education in general, they might continue to write or research, and many of these professionals become teachers at the college level, instructing a new generation of early childhood teachers.