Teaching and caring for tamariki
Early Childhood Teacher at Te Puna Reo o Ngā Kākano
Enrolling in the Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) meant taking a leap of faith for learner Emma Ludeman.
Having worked full-time as an unqualified teacher for over three years, Emma reached a point where she couldn’t progress further or take on more responsibilities without having a degree. “The only way to further my career working with children was to study,” she says. “I knew I wanted more.”
Emma says she knew she loved working with and alongside children, but the thought of study was daunting. “I completed a nannying certificate through PORSE after finishing school in Year 12, with the idea that I would go overseas and be a nanny, but then life happened, and instead, I took a relieving position at an early childhood centre.”
Initially she had to decide whether to work with early childhood or with primary aged children, but when she started working, the decision was clear “the younger children just stole my heart.”
Emma says she choose the Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) as she was looking for somewhere she could study online. “I don’t really like the structure of more traditional education and I also needed to financially support myself with work.”
“I knew face-to-face learning wasn't for me, where I had to attend classes at specific times, and Open Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga really stood out as being best suited to my lifestyle, with the flexibility to choose when and where I studied.”
Having flexibility meant she could continue to work and apply what she was learning in her studies at her workplace.
There were parts of her online studies Emma particularly enjoyed.
“I really liked the assignments at Open Polytechnic and how they were set out. My younger sister was also studying elsewhere and had small weekly assignments, whereas I had two to three assignments that were a lot more in-depth and required more input. As the due dates for these were spread out, it meant I had a lot more time to dive into the course material instead of focusing on completing assignments due weekly, which I really enjoyed.”
Throughout her studies Emma says the support from those around her, including her fiancée, was invaluable.
“My fiancée supported me through many late nights finishing assignments, and has been my rock, always encouraging me. Kaimahi (staff) at Childspace have been very encouraging too. There are some amazing, and inspirational teachers who work alongside me, and with studying online, it helps to bounce ideas off them.”
“Open Polytechnic kaimahi have always been there for me too and have shown they are there for all their students for whatever they need, especially over the last couple of years with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Moving from Hawkes Bay to Wellington when she started her degree, Emma took up a position at Early Childhood Centre, Childspace.
“I thought Childspace would be a great place to help support me with my studies. Childspace do a lot of professional development for the whole country for early childhood teachers. They're really inspiring.”
Emma says a typical day for her as a key teacher at Childspace involves many things. She spends her time exploring and playing alongside her key tamariki, while also being involved in care moments, planning learning experiences, and making sure each tamaiti (child) feels safe and secure.
“When I arrive at work, I figure out what the plan may look like for the day. At Childspace there is a lot of open-ended play throughout the day, we are very child-led in both play and sleep, it’s about whenever the children are ready, so our days are never the same, everyday changes.
“We do have basic a routine we follow, but this really is dependent on the children.”
Emma is impressed with the Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) programme, that includes up-to-date resources, and covers ‘Our Code Our Standards’, which she says is significant for early childhood teachers to understand. “I enjoyed how modern and interactive the readings and resources were, as they were very relevant to what we were learning. I am also very passionate about te reo Māori and including this in my practice, and the programme has a lot of it interwoven through each course.”
“I am on a journey, with te reo Māori, I'm not fluent, but I try and use te reo frequently within my everyday practice.
“I try to encourage kaiako (teachers) at work to learn and use te reo as much as we can. It’s not just about language either, I’ve fallen in love with te ao Māori and the ways of being and doing for Māori. I have a holistic approach to teaching, where I look at the whole child and their development; it’s very much a te ao Māori way of looking at a child too. A te ao Māori view, is something I resonate with, and find really beautiful.”
“Working with children and being around children has really opened my mind, they have taught me a lot more than I've taught them, about being a true and authentic version of myself. The best part of working with young children and being an early childhood teacher is a child’s curiosity and just seeing them be who they want to be.”
Emma says she is passionate about fostering positive relationships and teaching children about friendships and the joy they can bring.
“I try to teach the children that you can love and be kind to everyone, and that finding yourself as a person and your place in the world will help you enjoy life to its fullest.”
“Prior to starting my degree, I thought I knew a lot having previously worked in early childhood, but when I started my degree, I realised it was only the tip of the iceberg, I knew the basics of the curriculum, and the basics of how to help children. Through study I learnt more about the pedagogies of how we can support children and what they need, and I’ve been able to further my understanding of the learning environment.”
“The first 1000 days of a child’s life is incredibly important and every day I feel privileged to be part of this.”
With the end of her studies near, Emma says she feels incredibly proud of herself.
“I never thought I would get through it; I look back at the sleepless nights and long assignments, and I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to. I think I’m a better person, and kaiako after studying - it is the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to do, as I struggle academically, and am a hands-on learner.
“For me study has meant a lot of personal growth.”
“In the future I want to keep challenging myself professionally, eventually I would love to go into leadership, where I can inspire others to take up such a beautiful and rewarding career.”
Emma says with flexibility also comes challenges.
“Although I loved the flexibility of studying online, it was one of my biggest challenges too, I had to make myself study instead of someone else telling me to. Sometimes I would not study for a day and that day would turn into a couple more days without study.”
“I really had to be strict with myself about committing to days I would study instead of doing a bit of study here and there. I assigned myself study days, Monday till Thursday are workdays, Friday and Saturday are study days, and Sunday is the day I get to have my own personal time.”
To others contemplating study, Emma says, “be brave, be courageous and take a dive into the unknown, you will never know until you try.”
“I learnt a huge life lesson through study, I wasn’t sure I could do it and one day I took a leap of faith.”
“Surprise yourself with what you are capable of. You can do whatever you want if you just keep going.”
I learnt a huge life lesson through study, I wasn’t sure I could do it and one day I took a leap of faith