Anne is a rare full-circle moment for DDA. Having been a child within our child care programs herself, she has now joined DDA as an early childhood educator. Anne’s first entry back into DDA was as part of her Early Childhood Educator (ECE) practicum, and has since stayed on with us as a full time teacher.
While Anne’s situation is unique, her passion and motivation as a member of our staff is similar to those of her team, which is why she is a natural fit in our programs.
Here is what she had to say about her experiences as a staff member and how she pulls from her previous experiences when planning and executing activities with children.
How long have you been working with DDA?
I’ve been working for a year now, since last August.
Did you know anything about DDA before you started working here?
I didn’t know a lot about working here, but when I was a little kid I had attended a DDA child care centre.
What would you say motivates you to do what you do?
I have a fine arts diploma because I was actually going to finish a fine arts degree and major with that. I originally wanted to work with teenagers as a fine arts teacher – I got inspired by a teacher in high school. After getting into the fine arts field, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to do that.
So then I volunteered at a few daycare centres and thought, “Oh, this is actually really fun!” and then I felt like I could incorporate my fine arts ideas with children because they’re really able to express their ideas through art. I thought it was a great way to use my skills in art with children, so I thought that’s how I’d get my start, as a preschool teacher.
I still want to pursue working with children, but I’m actually going to finish my ECE degree first. So that’s another two years, and I’m still going to be working here, too.
What kind of fine arts did you do?
I’m more into ceramics, as I’ve been doing it since high school. I like printmaking too, as it’s a different approach in what I usually did.
Do you get to work with art a lot here?
Some children like expressive art, or art with an end product, for example, like making a horse. But other kids just like to express themselves through art, and that’s what I like to do.
What are you most excited/passionate about?
I’m really passionate about having a chance to really engage with the kids. I know how to play guitar, and I play guitar with the kids. In the beginning, I was worried that I’ll have to know “Twinkle Twinkle”, or all of these other songs that they know, but in the end I realized, “What if I make something up on the spot?”
So I knew a bunch of chords and I just played them, and threw out all of the kids’ names into the song. I noticed that that’s what they really like. It’s kind of like telling a story through music. It’s also great because it works on their cognitive and creative abilities, it makes them rethink what was in the song.
What kind of personal goals do you want to accomplish through your work?
Being able to not just engage with the kids, but with their families – which is why I wanted to get my ECE degree, to gain more knowledge about children and families. I hope to pursue my degree to continue working in the consultant area in the Infant Development Program, which is within DDA as well
I build a lot of relationships with not just the kids, but with their families as well, and that’s how I realized that I don’t want to leave DDA.. Because I’m going back to school, I can’t work full-time, but if I could work part-time here, that’d be great. I realized how I’d love to still support these families as much as I can.
What is the most interesting/fulfilling experience you’ve had working here?
I think being able to really work with such a great team. I know we have our ups and downs like everybody else, but being able to really build relationships with the staff, kids, and families are things that have really impacted me. To be able to work with people who have more experience is really maturing.
I’m glad I have some flexible staff members, and with me being flexible too, we all work really well together. Having staff who have been here for so long, they know how to do things when we’re stuck.
What does a typical day of work look like for you?
I come in, greet everybody, greet the children.
We do art with the kids in the morning, we have snacks, we play, there’s circle time (which is everyone’s favourite part), then we go outside before lunch, do some napping, wake up, have another mini-circle to get them back up, then we go outside for the rest of the day.
Since I work in a couple different programs, I am familiar with all the staff and children, not just for one program. There is a time in the afternoon when all of the kids are combined, and that’s what I really like.
The great thing about DDA, that I really like, is that they don’t just work with certain children. It’s in the wide range of abilities and special needs, children with extra support needs; it varies with them and the kind of support that they need. Really knowing that I can have a big range of families I can work with was what I really liked. It is very inclusive.
Having been a child in DDA’s childcare programs, how does it feel being on the other side of the teacher-child dynamic? Do you see yourself in some of the programs?
You know, I was actually talking about that with my other staff. I look at one girl, who’s really shy and quiet and takes time to bloom; I think that’s kind of like me. I see a reflection of some of the kids in me, particularly when I was in practicum.
There was a girl, and we’re both Filipino. And she was really shy, and didn’t say much. But when I saw her leave with her grandparents, I saw a way to relate to her. She said “Lolo” which means “Grandpa” in Filipino, and I thought, “That’s me right there!” Super shy around others, but outgoing when she sees people she is familiar with.
Does that help you in empathizing with the kids, and your approach to kids?
Definitely. It really helps me realize that I can bring those memories back to them. I actually went up to that girl the next day saying, “Oh, your grandpa’s a ‘lolo’ too?” And she said, “Yeah!” It really got her to open up.
What kind of skills/qualities would you say are absolutely necessary and critical to your position?
Patience. Patience is key, and being flexible is a big one too. Not just flexible with staff, but also with the kids. Each kid has their own ideas, so I try to incorporate everyone’s ideas into certain activities that we do. You can’t just stick to one certain way in this field, you have to be flexible with the staff, the kids, and the families, as long as it’s reasonable.
How do you stay patient?
Having extra staff really helps, especially if you need a little breather. Also the training and finding techniques on how to stay patient for the kids. When I calm them down, I calm down as well. You really want to keep that patience going, because you don’t want to raise your voice and scare the kids. Taking a creative approach where they can have fun as well helps a lot.
Did you have any preconceptions about the position that turned out to be true/false?
Yeah. Coming into the field, I didn’t realize how much more firm you really had to be. Being a practicum student, you have others to support you if a kid isn’t listening to you. But after practicum, you have full responsibility, where you’re kind of on your own. Even though you have other staff members, they rely on you to know what you’re doing. That was the hardest part for me, just being the newest coworker and it being a lot more work than you thought when you were a practicum student.
If you had to describe working at DDA in 3 words what would they be?
Amazing – I was able to build my journey here and know that I was welcome here, really throughout my own life.
Confidence – Working here has helped me build my confidence and know that there are so many areas that I can grow in.
Trustworthy – I can trust the organization and be supported in my work.
Any advice for someone starting at DDA?
Know that there are people you can rely on. There are a lot of people, even outside your direct team, that you can contact and they’ll always get back to you. It’s also a flexible organization, so if you decide to pursue other education and training or similar career choice, there are options for you.
We are currently hiring for our Child & Youth Programs. Join us today.