After working in clerical and administration roles for most of my life, at the age of 50 I decided to retrain. My chosen course was a Diploma of Child Studies, Children’s Services, offered through TAFE. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make and was further complicated by the fact that my two youngest daughters were about to embark on adventures of their own.
One was undertaking an overseas gap year before commencing university in NSW and the other was taking up her university place about 1500km from Hobart, where we were living at the time. With my eldest daughter already in NSW and only my son remaining in Tasmania, I made the decision to relocate back to the NSW town my children had grown up in. It definitely wasn’t a quiet year for our family and I began my first day at TAFE in Armidale, on the same day my daughter started university in Bathurst.
Looking for somewhere to live in Armidale and starting a course at the same time meant that getting back into study after many, many years was challenging, to say the least. When I first started, I felt frustrated by what felt like time wasted in the classroom after working in busy environments for many years. And while the course work was manageable, I had to be mindful of deadlines!
For financial reasons I was unable to continue full-time study and found clerical jobs while continuing to study externally. My teachers and fellow students were very supportive of my decision to make these changes. During this time, I did begin to wonder whether it was madness to give up a better paying clerical job for the notoriously poorly paid life in child care.
After working part-time in both arenas I decided child care was what I loved and was worth the sacrifice – so I gave up the clerical job and began my full-time career in child care in a preschool room. I can’t help but feel satisfied with my decision, as I prepare children to be ready for the next phase of their lives – school!
What I have also discovered is how undervalued people in my industry are, often being seen to be glorified babysitters. As my centre is long day care, this is particularly the case. Parents are often time poor, with little opportunity to become involved in the events held at the centre.
Over the last 10 years I have been lucky to work with a strong, dedicated and supportive team. This in itself has been a significant factor in the level of enjoyment I have had in my work. I have had the mentoring of two professional and wonderful centre Directors and am very thankful for the additional professional development to which I’ve had access over the years.
In retrospect, had I known how much I would love this job, I would have made my decision earlier in life. It is so rewarding working with and helping to develop preschool-age children to their full potential, whilst also addressing issues and directing families towards the help they may need.
I sometimes think that while my own children were in primary school it would have been a good opportunity to study a Bachelor of Education, Early Childhood. No one is ever too old to study and, as long as you’re realistic about job opportunities in your senior years, it’s never too late to make a change!
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