Throughout our post secondary paths, whether we choose College or University, ECE students are typically given the opportunity to experience field placement. This enhances, extends and supports the concrete theoretical learning that takes place in the classroom. As a student, field placement gives us the opportunity to put knowledge and theory into practice. We call it the hands on part of our education, where we “put it to work”.
As a current ECE student at Centennial College, I had the opportunity to partake in three different placement experiences – each bringing something beneficial to my career in the field. I had the chance to experience a placement with the YMCA, TDSB FDK classroom, and am currently placed at Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC). In regards to my previous two placements, I can truthfully say that they enhanced my learning and provided me with a deeper insight to my future career options. Each placement added to my learning and helped me understand the concepts discussed in class, which I was able to put into practice with my full potential. Through these placement experiences, I came to really understand what it takes to be an ECE.
As with any field placement experience, there are positive as well as negative aspects that shape our ideas and perspectives. Working in childcare is something wonderful because you play a major role in the early stages of children’s lives which can have a positive impact on the children and their families. Being passionate about the work and understanding the challenges and potential of the field can lead to an incredibly meaningful career. Sadly, ECEs and child care workers are historically underpaid and undervalued in society, which leads to burnout and challenges centres to retain well-trained, well-educated staff. It can be difficult for students experiencing a field placement with ECEs who are burnt out or fed-up and it is often a challenge to get through the experience while remaining positive. I like to think of it in the sense that even if it was not the experience you were hoping for, it’s still a learning experience that will benefit you in the long run if you engage in reflective practice. This can be turned into a positive learning experience because as a future ECEs we have the ability to affect positive change. Early childhood education is in our hands – we have the capability to adapt classrooms, or even a centre, by leading and motivating peers and colleagues.
Getting your foot in the door as early as possible and paying attention to how you build professional relationships will make for a positive learning experience. Early childhood education is a great field – which I realized early through my very first placement experience in high school. Accept all learning opportunities that come your way as each will benefit you differently.
Vesna is currently enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Program at Centennial College and is set to graduate in Spring 2016. Vesna has four years of experience working in the child care sector with a variety of age groups and centres. She is passionate about working with children and families and advocating for positive change and a better system of early learning and child care in the province of Ontario.