My Experience in the Early Childhood Sector as a Student – Niamh Brady

I always wanted to go into the caring profession, but I never thought it would be in the early childhood area. When I finished school, I went on to do a Fetac level 5 in applied Social Studies. During this course, I completed three weeks work – experience in a youth centre. Throughout this placement I worked with children aged from 5-15. To my surprise, I had a preference to work with the younger children. I also got the opportunity to work with children with disabilities. This opened up a different area to me. I decided after this, that I would pursue a career in early childhood care and education going on to study a level 8 in Sligo Institute of technology.

Starting the course, it was different from what I originally thought, it was much more complex. Studying modules such as Sociology, Psychology and caring for children, learning how these modules were linked and how they impacted on children and their lives.

In second year I completed a 13 week placement in an early years setting. As part of the course, it is mandatory to have 400 hours of placement completed in second and third year.

I found it hard to adapt in the setting at first, as I had worked in a setting before as a relief worker. As part of this work, I had been a room leader in a Montessori room. However, going into an early year’s service as a student was completely different. It took me a while to settle into my role as a student. I had to take time to learn and observe in the first few weeks, rather than jumping straight into work. This was a different role that I had been used to.

The setting was also quite different, as they used the High – Scope Curriculum which is based on practitioners showing the children how to do certain tasks but giving them the opportunity to do it for themselves as they believe they will learn through doing, such as putting on their coat, pouring their own water. During my time on placement in the setting, I learnt some valuable skills from the practitioners such as professionalism, behaviour management, planning activities and nurturing the child’s development. These skills I took on board as a future early childhood care practitioner.

Placement in third year was varied, as I had more options to where I wanted to complete it, we had options such as a primary school, hospital, county childcare committee or special school. When I received my placement in Longford county childcare committee, I was delighted to be offered it, as it was a very different environment to me and different from anything I had done before. I am currently in my third week in placement here, and I am enjoying every minute. I have learnt so much already about the work and service they provide. It has opened up so many more options to me that I never fully realised before this.

From my three years in early childhood care and whilst on my second placement, looking back I can see how much I have grown professionally and how my confidence has grown as an early childhood care practitioner and personally also. I have learnt how important it is to do placement as you gain more knowledge by seeing it first-hand. You get the opportunity to work with professionals and learn some key skills.

In my opinion, you have to learn gradually. It doesn’t happen over a year or two, you learn every day and, I will continue learning in this sector even when I graduate, as it is so versatile and always changing. If I could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about this career, it would be to go in with an open mind and be adaptable as you will get the best learning experience professionally and personally.