If you know you love kids, it will probably be a quick and easy decision to pursue a future in early childhood education. Pacifiers, picture books and Cheerios—you’ve got the system down. You know that when babies are crawling around, stairs need gates, outlets need covers and plants … well, plants should probably be moved out of the room altogether.
But, if you’re looking for a position that isn’t just nannying the neighbor’s kids or providing part-time daycare during the summer, you might find inspiration in the story of one woman who turned an education degree into her dream job.
We caught up with Michelle Gannon, graduate of Columbia University and creator of The Language Playground, to talk about her experiences and the importance of education in her career path.
A degree can help you realize your career path options
Pursuing a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity, then-pregnant Gannon and her husband moved to Tokyo in 2005. In an effort to fit in and embrace their new adventure, the couple attempted to learn Japanese. While she and her husband struggled mightily with the ancient language, Gannon noticed that, by the time they left in 2008, her 3-year-old son had picked up on it rather quickly.
That’s when a light bulb went off.
Gannon used her education and student teaching experience to help the boy continue learning languages after the family returned to the United States. The experience inspired her to create The Language Playground, a company devoted to helping parents teach their children to speak a second language.
“The exposure I received from my student teaching experiences in my school's early education programs helped prepare me to teach in diverse and inclusive environments,” Gannon says.
Not only that, but her degree provided her with a wide variety of experiences and readied her to work with a range of students, from toddlers to college students. In fact, Gannon explains, her education degree continues to play an integral role in teaching her adult running group and even, being a mother.
A degree teaches you the questions to ask
Gannon says her professors and the courses she took taught her how to use the right frame of mind when teaching. “A degree and the classes you take as a result help you dig deeper into why you are doing what you’re doing and what it means,” Gannon says.
She explains that if you’re about to do a lesson with your kids, or in a classroom with students, or even if you’re creating an app, the proper training can help you explore your motivation for what you’re teaching and how the subject matter will ultimately help the student.
While you may understand a lot about taking care of kids, or even educating them, taking courses in education will only increase your depth of your knowledge. You might discover something you wouldn’t have otherwise considered, and that may end up being the key to helping you land that career you’ve always wanted.
“A degree helps you understand a lot of the intricacies of schools and the laws that have been put in place to protect certain types of students and situations,” Gannon explains. “When you get a degree in education, you realize that every second you have a child in your classroom counts.”
A degree provides you with necessary resources
Gannon admits that it’s easy to plop down worksheets in front of a child and help him or her complete it. But she says that’s not really the point of being a teacher.
“When you get a degree in education, it really causes you to understand if you’re reaching every student or only some students with the structure and content of your worksheet,” she says.
Education classes teach you theory and purpose, but they also open up a world of connections and resources. By meeting your professors, asking questions, and learning about the different connections and resources they have, you create a network of support from which to draw in the future.
Gannon explains that her network of professors and classmates helped her understand how to best connect with children from different socioeconomic and geographical backgrounds. She says her instructors went to great lengths to make sure she understood education-related laws, classroom management techniques and how to get parents to support healthy lifestyles in the home.
“The amazing field experience I received … served as the foundation from which the theories we studied about development, learning and curriculum in early education blossomed,” Gannon says.
Does your current job have you wishing for more?
A degree in early childhood education could be what you're looking for—personally and professionally. If you're not sure teaching is for you, check out Rasmussen College’s career aptitude test to get a better understanding of your skill set.