Being an Early Childhood Educator is one of the most rewarding tasks – so we have heard quite a lot lately. For 54-year-old Marthe Melanie, this has been her livelihood for over three decades; from Seychelles to now Canada, her passion and patience for young children has not subsided. Let us find out more about Ms Melanie’s journey in the Early Childhood Education world and what advice she has to share with fellow colleagues and the readers.

Kindly introduce yourself to us – State your name, age, address and tell us a bit about your training and qualifications as a childminder. 

My name is Marthe Sylvette Melanie, and I am 54-years-old. I used to live at Anse Royale in the Seychelles Islands but currently residing in Canada (province of Manitoba). I was trained as an Early childhood educator (childminder) in Seychelles from January 1987 to December 1988 and was considered the best overall in my group. Upon my arrival in Canada in 2007, I was recognized as an Early Childhood Assistant (ECA) at the very beginning. To be an Early Childhood Educator (ECE), I needed to demonstrate the qualities recommended by the province. I qualified for the “International Educate Competency Program”. During this time, I was working as an ECA and was assigned to someone to monitor me at work, as well as a coordinator from the department of Early Learning office who was responsible for the process until its completion. Upon successfully completing the program in 2008, I was awarded an ECE ll certificate from the province. After that, in September 2011, I went to Red River College where I enrolled in a part-time course specializing in Infant and Toddler Care. I obtained a certificate of Honors and also qualified as an Early Childhood Educator lll.

How long have you been working as a childminder and why did you choose this career path?

If it was continuous service years to date, it would have been 33 years. However, due to a health issue when I was still in Seychelles, I worked for a while at the Anse Royale Secondary School and Grand Anse Mahe Primary Library. When I moved to the Caribbean, I worked for a couple of months as a receptionist at an internet company. Later before moving to Canada, I worked at a private school in the Junior Kindergarten room. Upon moving to Canada in 2007, I went back into Early Learning Education. I have worked both at English and French daycares. In September 2016 I opened my home daycare as unlicensed while working towards obtaining a provincial license. With my experience, I challenged myself to set up “Waves Home Daycare” and in December 2016 I officially got my license. I have no regret in taking this step forward and I love the flexibility of working from home.

I used to admire how one of my crèche/childminder teachers (Miss Reine) took care of us, she seemed always calm and very cheerful. I think that is why I chose to work with young children.

Do you work alone or do you have assistants to help out? 

Yes, I work alone and I am allowed to care for eight children. This includes not more than three under two years of age and the group can include three school-aged kids that may come only before school, after school or both. I seek an assistant/substitute if have an important workshop\appointment between 8 am-5 pm.

How do you ensure the safe recruitment of staff?

Usually, I get to know them a bit before I am ready to introduce them to all the parents/guardians. I tend to recruit people around my age.

However, if I enrolled a child that needs additional support, I must employ someone full-time and that person will need to pass all the safety checks (police record and child abuse).

What are some of the qualities you possess as a person that help to facilitate your work as a childminder?

First, someone must love children and understand their needs and be ready to nurture them accordingly as much as she\he can. I would also say patience, time management, good organizing skills, cheerful, hardworking, enthusiasm, driven to learn more about early childhood education, and self-determination to offer quality care.

How do you support children’s learning and cognitive development?

My program is play-based. I support the theory that says, “children learn best through play”.

Between zero to five years is the time that children need to play more whilst constructing their knowledge and understanding the world around them. My daycare environment usually consists of a variety of toys/materials that influence cognitive development. I also observe them while playing and turn their interests into a little emergent curriculum. I offer them little planned activities as well as spontaneous activities daily.

How many children are currently in your care and how old are they?

Currently, I have five children under the age of five and another one who attend the daycare on a part-time basis, if one of the initial five is absent. As mentioned before, I am allowed to care for eight children as per my license. This includes not more than three children under two years of age and three school-aged children that may come before school, after school, on in-service days and school holidays.

Children come from various walks of life, backgrounds and parentage. How do you manage the different behaviour and characteristics of the children?

Canada is the third country where I am working with very young children. I have the privilege to work with families from various cultural backgrounds. It is very important to get to know each family and their expectations when they trust you to take care of their children. I make sure I get to know each family individually as much as I can through an exchange of communication and observation daily.

I have a detailed Parent/ Guardians handbook which includes a Code of Conduct plan that outlines the policies on how I run my daycare. On top of that, there is the ‘Best Practices Handbook’ issued by the province that specifies various topics including behavioural management. More than that, I enroll in numerous workshops every year to gain more knowledge on how to better handle situations that may arise in the room. Lately, I took “Disruptive Behaviour” and the “Circle of Security” workshops that benefitted me personally. If through my observation I discover any child with specific behavioural issues, I can seek support, do documentation and request for a specialist to do an observation (provided parents/guardians give their approval). In general, I am not alone if I am facing any issues as I have a coordinator from the government assigned to me.

What would you say is the biggest motivation for you in this line of work?

The joyful moments throughout the day seem therapeutic to me. Looking at children that you have cared for from the age of one or younger whom are now able to hold a basic conversation with you is priceless. I usually tell them about their milestones in a little story and we laugh together.

What advice do you have for the readers, parents, and fellow childminders?

For the readers:

Parents keep telling me “I do not know how you do it, but you are doing a good job”. I try to balance my day/time apart from working. I have hobbies that include gardening – I adore roses, badminton, and some art and craft. I am married so I have my share of house chores also.

For parents:

A childminder is someone that your child trusts and has an attachment to. Support your child as well as the childminder through the process where they are getting to know each other. It is a big transition for a child especially if she /he comes from a small family or has been exposed to a limited number of people before the environment at the daycare. The sharing of observations from home as well as from the daycare is very important as it helps everyone to be on the same page and get a better understanding of the child. A positive relationship between the parents and the childminder is very important.

Fellow Childminders/Early childhood educators:

Our job is very important, as we are helping the parents to strengthen the country’s economy by every minute we take care of their children. We play a key role alongside all the workers in our society. It is a rewarding job apart from the financial aspect. We encounter various unique or priceless moments now and then. Making a difference in a child’s life can be a lifetime memory. It is very important to keep learning more about related topics in Early Learning education. A good way is through workshops and networking. My golden advice “see challenging situations as the perfect moment for you to put into practice your knowledge and not as something to stress too much on”. A productive childminder is one that can face challenges and continue to create a positive experience for the children. Our day is unpredictable but if you can admire the rainbow after the storm, you will continue to find more and that spirit that will keep you going!

Finally, make sure you make time for yourself and enjoy what you like outside of work.