Saturday, August 8, 2015

Day in the life of a daycare teacher

* Trigger Warning: this post is me documenting a day at the daycare the Beats attend. There will be talk about babies and small children. As always, PLEASE do not read if you are not in a good place. There will be other posts. Please take care of yourself first.

Back in March, I made a decision to work at the same daycare as the Beats. Though I rarely talk about money, the expense of having them enrolled in their center ($495 per week per child = $25,740 per year per child) was kicking our butts financially. The director practically hired me on the spot when I mentioned my interest and when Grey found out about the discount (50%) for employees, he just about fell over.

Since March, I've been working 2-3 days a week as a floater. What floaters do is step in for the teachers in the different classrooms, providing breaks, time for curriculum prep and even acting as substitutes. Basically, though I don't have a particular classroom that I call home, I do know enough about the daily activities and schedules for all the rooms and all the kids enrolled there. Though seemingly simple, this position can actually be pretty difficult as your knowledge base has to be broader. That and the kids will test boundaries with the floaters in ways they wouldn't dare with their normal teachers (and oh how many stories I now have of those moments).

Anyway, a friend recently asked me what it was like to be a parent working at the daycare. Especially given my background as a lecturer at the university level. So I figured I'd share what has become a typical day.

8 am: Grey, the Beats and I arrive at the daycare. The Beats have gotten into the habit of stopping at the different rooms to say "good morning" to the infant teachers and the center cook. Then it's downstairs to their classroom for breakfast. Hands are washed and both join the table for a family style breakfast with their other classmates. Tables are low so that they can bus their dishes and get cleaned up on their own when they are done. Kisses and "love you"s are exchanged. I then chat with the teachers to determine their need for the morning. If already busy, I will go upstairs to clock in early to provide relief. If not, I have time for a quick cup of coffee. Grey and I walk back up to the lobby and say good-bye for the day.

8:15/8:30-9:15 am: Clock in. Most days I immediately go to the Toddler room, which is 12-20 months. There's is currently a mixture of more seasoned children and those who have just moved down from infants. I sign in to the roster and up to 7 toddlers will be sent over to me. Hand-washing for all 7 kids followed by turning on music and setting them loose to play. As they play, I will organize "My-Day" forms, filling in ones for parents who don't fill one out for their kids (sidenote: please do this if you have this available. This form is how most parents can communicate with the teachers. Too often we have parents who don't do this and then we learn critical information after the fact). Diaper log is started and I restock diapers and wipes for each child. Once room is organized and inventory is completed, diaper changes begin. At this point, I am either on my own or another floater will join me so that 5 more kids can come into the room (child-to-teacher ratio is 5-7:1; room capacity is 14 kids). Each diaper change takes a total of 5 minutes, including hand-washing with kids afterwards and sanitizing the table. The kids and I usually sing together in order to alleviate how much they hate the process. If I have another teacher, he/she will sing songs and read to the kids.

9:15-9:30 am: Toddler teachers clock on. The kids immediately run to these 3 ladies for hugs and morning greetings. The newer kids are beginning to learn this routine, crawling over to see what the fuss is. Teachers round up kids, one begins picking up while another starts circle time. The third checks in with me about finishing diapers, restocking paper towels/hand soap/cleaning solutions. If it is the end of the week we'll make a plan for doing laundry (all bedding and any dirty clothes). As circle time continues, the two other teachers will begin setting up for the morning activity and preparing for the toddlers to go outside. I sign out and head back to the office.

9:30-11:00 am: 10 minute breaks. Also fondly known as "tens." I find a manager and the other floater. We go through the list and determine who will cover who. Because the Beats are in the older toddler room, I can't be in there. Plan established, I begin giving teachers breaks, jumping in to continue discussions, read stories, continue small group activities, change diapers, feed infants and simply to play. In every room, all the children know me and now know the boundaries. Still, there's moments where they test to see what they can get away with, but generally the interactions are positive and fun. Somewhere in the midst of this I will take my break, checking on laundry and making sure things are moving along.

11:00 am - 12:30 pm: Lunch prep. Also known as "angry hour." This is where kids are starting to get both hungry and tired. I will step into a classroom at this point to help with lunch prep. Hand-washing for all; diaper changes for those rooms that require it. From 11:15-11:30 am, lunch carts arrive. Kids are seated at the table for family-style dining. In infant rooms, we serve hot-items away from for safety reasons, but otherwise the kids will serve themselves (in Toddlers and Preschool, we assist). After children have food, we serve ourselves and sit down to eat and talk with the kids. While one sits with the kids, another teacher is finishing clean-up and putting out cots for nap-time. Shades are pulled and calming music is put on. Kids will bus their plates, wash hands and use the bathroom. Books are handed out for the older kids for a few minutes of reading. Once lunch is completed, tables are sanitized, floors are sweep and mopped, trashed is taken out and bathrooms are cleaned. In toddler room, the focus is helping the kids fall asleep, with patting on the back and soothing. Books are collected and kids are left to quiet their bodies.

12:30-3:00 pm: Nap-time/Quiet time. One teacher is left in the room once most the kids are asleep so the others can take lunch. Though students are not required to nap, we do have a 45 minute period that they need to be on their cots before we provide puzzles or books. This period is a tricky one: some kids insist they don't need to nap and will do everything in their power to stay awake. These tend to be the ones who nap hard, crashing after 30 minutes and then sleeping through to 3 pm. We do have a couple who simply don't nap, so activities are provided for them. Testing is always high during this time, especially with new teachers. It is also during this time that afternoon activities will be finalized, more curriculum is prepped and any final cleaning (i.e. after vegetarian chili) happens. Somewhere in here, I will get my lunch break and go check on the Beats.

3:00-5:00 pm: Afternoon. Sometimes I will continue with "tens," but usually I will end up in a room as a teacher is leaving early for the day. More often, this has been an infant room, where I will pick up schedules, start diaper changes, handle bottles and feedings and simply spend moments covered in babies. There are a few new infants, who are more than happy to be held all day. Tummy time is encouraged, reading and singing/dancing is always a hit and exploration happens in many forms. It's usually around this time that parents call to check in, so we chat with them. This is also the period when passerbys will stop to "oh" and "ah" over the infants. Who knew that it's actually the infants who are "oh"ing and "ah"ing. By the end of the day, the babies start watching the doors. If bottles are scheduled, some will hold out as they know mom or dad is coming soon. For those that come earlier, there's always a production of shrieks and giggles. Some of the older babies will actually book it for the door, grinning the whole way. Good-byes and hugs are given. Full reports on the day (verbal and My-Day form) are handed off and small talk happens. This is also the point exhaustion is setting in.

5:00-5:30 pm: Clean-up and preparing to close. Final round of laundry happens (unless it's Friday) and I am given rooms to close. I've recently developed a reputation for being efficient, so I cover 2-3 rooms before the end of my shift. This includes taking out trash, bringing dirty dishes to kitchen to be soaked, sanitizing tables, bathrooms, cribs and all surfaces/toys, vacuuming, sweeping and mopping. If not cleaning, I usually in the rooms with the kids talking with parents and saying good-bye for the day. Many parents now know about the Beats and see me as an insider.

5:30 pm: Grey arrives and I clock out. We go to the Toddler room to collect the Beats. I chat with the teachers to get a final update on them and to see how things went in general. High-5s for another successful day are given. Beats carry their My-Day forms up the stairs and collect their boxes of raisins. Family loaded into the car and we commute home.


  1. Busy day! It's nice to get a glimpse of daycare from the other side.

  2. This was very interesting, but I can't get over tuition... $495 per WEEK?!?! I'm going to go throw up on your behalf.

  3. I'm exhausted! lol

    I enjoyed this though - my niece is a manager of quite a large daycare centre, and it's given me a better insight to what she does all day, and what she has to manage.

  4. I thought that we had it bad at $416/week for our daughter when she was in the infant room- yikes! That was a fascinating look into what sounds very similar to what happens at my daughter's daycare every day. Boy you must be exhausted- and then have to take home the Beats and parent them until they go to bed!

  5. Daycare work can be very exacting, judging from the amount of round-the-clock cleaning that you have to do. So I think it's understandable, since you have to look out for the habits of the kids as well – and kids tend to be quite messy. Good thing you get the job done, and have been stocking on cleaning solutions for you to be able to do so well. Thanks for sharing!

    German Zollinger @ Total Clean Equipment


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