Nursery and pre-school teachers are likely to be the first professional educators your child will ever encounter - which is a massive responsibility. In this blog we explore the role of these early years educators, why their jobs are so vital, and how we can say a special thank you to our nursery teachers.
What do nursery teachers do?
So nursery teachers just play all day, right? Well, let's first of all put this myth to bed. Although it is hugely rewarding, nursery teaching is one of the most demanding, exhausting and under-appreciated roles in the childcare and early years sector.
Early Years Foundation Stage
Nursery and early years teachers are specialists in early childhood development, who work with children from birth to five years of age. They are responsible for planning and implementing learning in line with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which all Ofsted registered early years settings, from nurseries and childminders to reception class, must follow. These areas of learning include:
- communication and language
- physical development
- personal, social and emotional development
- understanding the world
- expressive arts and design
And yes, nursery teaching does involve a lot of play! Children learn these vital skills through playing, so it is central to quality early childhood education, and a crucial element of a nursery teacher's role.
Key role of a nursery teacher
It's the role of nursery teachers to create a safe and nurturing environment in which to help young children develop the knowledge, abilities and social skills they need for the next stage of their lives. In order to do this, they not only need to have an understanding of how children learn, but they must possess key skills such as creativity, problem-solving, authoritativeness, interpersonal skills, and unending patience if they are to succeed.
The typical duties of a nursery teacher include:
- Planning and implementing a wide range of engaging learning activities, based on the EYFS framework.
- Assessing and monitoring children's progress and maintaining records.
- Creating a safe, nurturing and positive environment in which children can learn.
- Building strong relationships both with children, and with parents/carers and other relevant professionals such as speech therapists and health visitors.
What challenges do nursery teachers face?
The early years education sector faces a huge amount of pressure every day, and there is no doubt we should say thank you to nursery teachers for the incredible role they play in society. Not only do they provide quality education for our young children, but they offer crucial childcare which allows people to go out to work. Although extremely rewarding, the job is tough, and often it is our nursery teachers' love of working with children which keeps them going in an overworked and underfunded industry.
Supporting families through adversity
Just some of the obstacles nursery teachers have to face were highlighted in the recent 'Our challenges are their challenges' study by The Anna Freud National Centre for Children. Published in February 2021, it provided a summary report of the experiences facing nursery workers in the UK and gave a thought-provoking insight into issues that they have to deal with. For example, more than two thirds (69%) had cared for babies and young children affected by trauma (including child abuse and neglect). In addition, 91% said they had faced challenging situations with young children who they felt were experiencing mental health problems or social or emotional difficulties. And of these respondents, 70% said they felt stressed or upset by these situations and didn't know how best to respond. You can read more about creating positivity within educational settings here.
Dealing with the challenges of the pandemic
In addition, the pandemic and subsequent return to a 'new normal' has bought a whole new set of challenges to nurseries. The nature of the work means that nursery workers are in close physical contact with large numbers of children, which puts them at risk of infection. This has lead to increased levels of stress, anxiety and fear for themselves and their own families. Nurseries have also found themselves under unprecedented pressure to: implement new Covid-safe procedures without compromising the quality of the care they provide; put measures in place to support staff wellbeing and cover absences; support parents/carers who feel anxious, have lost loved ones, or are experiencing financial hardship; and deal with their own financial instability at the same time. The list seems endless.
So, how can we say thank you to nursery teachers?
So we've seen what an important role nursery and early years practitioners play, and how they deliver crucial services despite unprecedented challenges, but how do we actually show our appreciation for all that they do? Well, a card and a box of chocolates always goes a long way, but there are lots of other ways to say thank you to nursery teachers, that will support the work they do, and make their jobs a little easier - and have a positive effect on you too. Read more about the healing effects of giving gratitude here, and take a look at some of these ideas below:
A good nursery doesn't just focus on the children in its care - it strives to build great relationships with parents and carers too. So if your nursery reaches out to you with an invitation to a workshop or event, a feedback survey, or an email asking for help with a bake sale, then be sure to get involved! Your enthusiasm and support for their ideas will mean the world to them. If you are able to spare a couple of hours, then volunteering is a brilliant way to give back too, and you can help relieve some of the day-to day-pressure.
Communication between you and your nursery teacher is vital to ensure relationships remain strong. It will help reassure them that you're on board with their ideas, and you're happy with the service they are providing, which can help keep morale high. Make sure you read the nursery newsletter, respond to emails promptly and keep on top of the things your child needs to bring in, whether that's wellies for forest school or a favourite teddy for the teddy bear's picnic! Don't forget to speak to them face to face too - when you pick up your child, have a chat about how their day has been and tell them how much your child loved a recent activity - they will appreciate the thought and enjoy some adult conversation!
Help raise money
Lots of nurseries are underfunded, and many are having a particularly hard time financially during the pandemic when their numbers may be lower than usual, or parents are keeping their children at home. So if your nursery teacher is fundraising to buy supplies or new equipment, then see what you can do to help. From arranging your own fundraising activity or sponsored event, to simply buying some cakes from their Easter fête, a little will go along way. Your nursery teacher will feel their hard work is really appreciated, and the thought of seeing that shiny new equipment to help enhance children's learning will make you all feel good too.
Donate toys, books and supplies
Why not say thank you to your nursery teachers by offering to donate some toys, books or office supplies to the nursery? It's not only a great way to give something back, but it will make tight budgets go a little further and help your nursery teacher reach their teaching goals, which is a great boost to morale.
Share their success outside the nursery
If you're happy with your nursery teacher, then make sure you tell their manager so their achievements can be rewarded. Brag about all the great things they do, to the world outside the nursery too. Share on social media, tell your friends and family, other parents, local schools, the local press or your local business network about the nursery's achievements and their amazing events. Recognising their effort and ability is a wonderful way to say thank you to nursery teachers and will motivate them to carry on with their great work.
Say thank you to your nursery teachers with TAP
What better way to say thank you to your nursery teachers than with a personalised message of appreciation and thanks? Thank and Praise (TAP) is a unique thanking platform that can help you send either a personal message, or a public message on our education thanking wall, to show your nursery teacher how much you appreciate them. You can also raise money for great causes too! It's completely free to use either on the web or using the TAP App, which is available to download from the App Store or Google Play.
You can use TAP in one of these ways:
- Thank an individual - simply complete the form at the bottom of the page with the name of the person you wish to thank, their organisation and your message, and we'll send your message of thanks safely and securely to the recipient.
- Praise a department or organisation - do the same as above, but make sure you click the 'Happy to share on the public Thanks Wall' button. We'll then post it to the digital Thanking Wall for you for everyone to see. You can anonymise your message if you wish.
- Raise money - if you make a donation via TAP's platform, then TAP's corporate partners will match fund it, making your money go even further.
For more information about how TAP can help you thank a keyworker or someone special across the education, healthcare or social care sectors, click here.
If you are interested in working with TAP as a user organisation, supporter or partner, click here.
We hope you enjoyed learning about these wonderful unsung heroes of early years education, the vital role they play in supporting children and families, and how we can say thank you to our nursery teachers and early years practitioners. Don't forget to say thank you today!