I have numerous experience with creches. My kids went to 5 different creches over time. 4 of which were in Ireland (3 private, 1 community creche – only 1 of my children went there for less than a week) and 1 public creche in Slovakia. I always visited several creches before choosing the one I would put my kids to. I talked to the creche manager, teachers, asked about the learning plan, daily routine, I even talked to the kids to make sure they looked happy. I checked the baby changing area and children’s bathrooms to make sure it looks nice and clean and I always asked about the meal plan to make sure there’s freshly cooked, healthy food served to the kids. In other words, I wanted to know everything that every parent wants to know before choosing the childcare.
I noticed that baby-boom in Slovakia in the past few years have been accompanied with private creche boom. There has never been so many private creches. When I’m browsing through their websites I see how wonderfully they’re being presented. Everything is Montessori, Waldorf, with foreign language lessons, sports etc. I visited few of them when I was choosing creche for my kids after moving to Slovakia. However I’m not going to talk about them too much as my kids never went to any of them (we’ve decided to go with the public creche). There’s many different opinions on them among mums, some think they’re great, uncomparable to public creches. Some other say that there’s not enough regulation for private creches in Slovakia and teachers are often underqualified.
How does Slovak public creche look like
I will tell you “anonymously” about particular creche where my kids (2 out of 3) go for the 2nd year now. It’s a smaller creche in between apartment buildings in one of the bigger cities in Slovakia. It has 4 classrooms, there are 22 children in each of them and each class has 2 teachers. All together there are 8 teachers and 88 children. Up until here it sounds quite ok. If there were 2 teachers who would dedicate all their time to the children, that would be great. They could even find a few spare minutes to do some paper work during the day.
What is the reality?
There are 8 teachers in the creche. One of them is also the creche manager, another one is a deputy manager and the rest of the teachers have some extra responsibilities or roles as well. Those extra duties reduce the time they can spend with our kids.
Another thing is that creche is opened from 6AM to 5PM, that’s 11 hours per day. Common working time per 1 person is usually 40h/week or 8h per day. Now we need to take into account the lunch break and other small breaks when a teacher is not spending time with children. If we consider that someone needs to open the creche in the morning BEFORE 6am, close it AFTER 5pm and that every teacher needs to do some preparation for educational activities, we can definitely say that in order to have 2 teachers per class, every class should have 3 teachers.
It sounds a bit complicated, but that’s the way it is. Every class should have 2 teachers during 11 hours when the creche is opened. That’s 22 working hours in total. But 2 teachers working full time only cover 16 hours out of 22 necessary. If we consider lunch breaks, other small breaks and hand over time after coming to class, it’s clear that the working time of teachers should overlap.
You can argue that most of the kids are coming to creche at 8am and are leaving at 3pm but I don’t think this is a relevant reason for not having 2 teachers per every class in creche at all times. I’m sure there is some obligatory paper work for the teachers to do. Educational activities need preparation too and why should teachers do it at home in the evening in their own free time? Who do you think cut out all the paper trees coloured in by your little one that you got as a present before Christmas? And paper flowers for mother’s day? Who’s putting up the seasonal decoration all around the creche? Who’s planning the events for children? This is all the hard work of those few teachers in the creche. Even if they had nothing to do at all in the morning and only 8 kids out of 88 would arrive at 6am, it wouldn’t do any harm to spend some good quality 1 on 1 time with these children.
Teaching in a creche? Never…
No, I have never been a teacher in a creche and I cannot imagine myself to become one. I only have 3 children of my own and I’m sure every parent of 2 or more kids would agree with me when I say that it’s extremely difficult to organize them to do something meaningful.
For example, drawing. My oldest daughter (6y) is big and independent. She takes out all the art & craft supplies, crayons, papers, scissors, glue and starts to create. She’s also a typical woman. Her life is based on communication. She’s talking all the time and requires a lot of attention and assistance with everything she’s doing. It makes her happy. I’m just sitting next to her, answering her questions and helping her with cutting and gluing every now and then.
My son (nearly 5y) has just learnt recently how to hold a pencil in his hand correctly. If I want him to sit at the desk and draw, I need to be sitting next to him, reminding him very patiently to hold the crayon the right way up and encourage him to draw something or to colour in the simply picture. Otherwise he’d scribble the entire paper within 30 seconds the same way his 2 year old brother would, then he would say that he’s bored and his hand hurts from holding the crayon.
Alongside with all this, there’s also 2 year old running around the table, taking out the crayons one by one and scribbling over the artwork of his 2 older siblings (they’re not very happy about it, of course). Or alternatively he’s standing on a chair for a second before he climbs up on the table stamping all over the crayons and papers. When I take him down, he secretly finds the box with the felt tips and starts pulling out the colouring peaks of the felt tips with his teeth. I notice it as soon as there’s something suspiciously green, blue or orange leaking out of his mouth.
Summary of drawing at home with 3 kids (6, 4 and 2): 6 year old is gaggling something and thinking that someone is listening to her, 4 year old is being grumpy and wants to go away and do something else and 2 year old is running, jumping on the table and chewing on the felt tips.
It’s me who’s watching over and organizing this creative activity. Myself, one person with 2 eyes and 2 hands. What can you say… My husband would tell me: “Now you have what you wanted.” A stranger would just politely said: “You have your hands full…”
Our precious little creche…
If you realize that this is how drawing with 3 kids ONLY looks like, can you explain to me how can 1 teacher in creche handle 22 children aged 3-4? And there are great artworks of those little kids hanged all over the walls, like for example nice yellow chicks with red beaks precisely coloured in, there are play-doh figures placed next to it, children are all clean, well rested, have been outside, had their dinner… How are they doing it? When??? Yet, it’s true. Despite the fact that there’s only 1 teacher in the classroom during the essential part of the day. And I know that they’re working individually with every single child. One teacher takes one child, sits with him/her at the desk and teaches him/her how to hold the crayon, what to colour in, etc. (That’s how the chicks that are nice enough to be hang on the wall are being created.)
They’re doing their best but there’s too much pressure
Can you imagine how could the same creche look like if there were 2 teachers in each class at all times? Those teachers would certainly be more relaxed as they’d have enough time to do what they’re supposed to do. There would be many more smiles & happier kids. But the reality is different. There’s no wonder that some teachers look so annoyed. Are screaming at the kids and talking irritably to the parents, who complain about everything instead of saying thanks for taking care of my child.
In our creche, every single member of staff is participating in taking care of our children. Not only teachers, cleaning ladies and kitchen chefs too. They’re all helping as much as they can and I can see that it’s with love, from the bottom of their hearts. Everyone has a bad day sometimes but I really appreciate their effort. I admire them all for what they do.
Right qualification is the key (or is it?)
Of course not. Children need your love in the first place. Teacher must be very patient, creative and loving. No school can teach you how to give love to a child. Yes, I know that you can learn a lot about methodical approach, right structure, and you should be aware of child’s developmental stages too. But anyone who loves working with kids can learn it with a little bit of effort within few weeks. If I was to compare what my kids learned in Slovak public creche in comparison to Irish private creche, I would say, that they didn’t learn much. Even the things they knew before starting in Slovak creche, they forgot over time. They will need to learn it all over again. But that’s ok. As long as my children look happy and content, they have lovely teachers who know them and support their development every day. They’re socializing with classmates, participating in structured activities and still have enough time to play. All these things are way more important in their young age than naming the months of the year, days of the week, writing or counting.
I would like to dedicate this article to all teachers in Slovak public creches, who are taking care of our children with love everyday despite the work overload pressure they experience daily. I also wish to all the mums to find a perfect way of making their children happy, wherever it is, at home, in private or in public creche, even at grandma’s or with a babysitter 🙂
Read in the next article about how can very small children learn first letters, numbers, colours, days, months and much more even without losing their childhood: Irish creche or how did my 2.5 year old joined the preschool.