What is your name and where do you work?
My name is Scott Hunter and I am 43. I work in Kerikeri Kindergarten, which has 4 teachers and 40 children in the morning and 30 in the afternoon.
What is your professional background and career experience?
I have been a teacher for about 20 years. I started my career teaching English as a second language.
What attracted you to a career in the early childhood sector?
About 10 years ago when I was living in the UK an opportunity came up to do some funded training in early childhood education (ECE) and I had always got on well with young children so I decided to have a go. I loved it and haven’t looked back since.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
I think my favourite thing about my job is there is no such thing as a normal day. The minds of young children are limitlessly extraordinary. The other day when my wife asked me how my day was I replied that I had spent the majority of the morning repelling an attack by some evil elephant fairies and the afternoon was mostly taken up by wondering why bees have stripes. She just rolled her eyes but I guess for me that is a normal day.
What makes your service unique?
We are a bunch of greenies at our kindergarten really. Environmental sustainability practices have been embedded in the culture of our centre for years, long before I started working here. Through some fairly aggressive recycling and waste policies, we have recently become carbon neutral as a kindergarten. I am extremely proud of this fact and it is good to be able to walk into work with my head held high knowing that we are no longer part of the problem when it comes to the climate crisis.
We have a healthy food programme here in which we make delicious, healthy, additive free food with the children almost every day. We also have a fire pit in which we cook regularly with the children. We also grow lots of our own vegetables.
Perhaps the crowning jewel of our green initiatives is our ngahere programme in which we take the oldest ten children into the bush every Thursday to our bush camp. We trap predators, monitor kiwis with our motion sensor cameras, make things out of stuff we find in the bush and generally just explore. We all look forward to ngahere days. It’s just amazing to watch the children build a relationship with this environment over time. Now THAT is how you save the world right there.
What are some of the advantages of working in early childhood education and care?
There aren’t too many jobs where you can bring your kids to work. My son Sid has been with me for nearly two years now at kindy and I feel truly blessed to have him here.
The job can be tiring but I think it keeps you young as well. One of my colleagues is a couple of years away from retirement but she is still completely bewitched by these children. I love to see the twinkle in her eye when she tells me about a conversation she has just had with a child. Their theories and ideas are endlessly fascinating and at the end of the day I just have better work stories than most of the people I know.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector?
I think pay is a huge challenge for most ECE teachers. I am lucky to work in a kindergarten and I am happy with the salary I receive but for most people working in the private sector the pay is nothing short of scandalous.
Working in kindergartens, the biggest challenge is how to stay competitive in an ever-changing society in which more people are working longer hours. I personally think that this in as issue that society needs to address firstly but it is what it is.
How has your service changed to deal with these challenges?
Some of the kindergartens in our association have moved to an all year model as a way of trying to stay competitive. I suspect this will happen to all kindergartens in the future.
What advice would you offer someone thinking about a career or looking for a promotion in early childhood education and care?
It’s all about relationships. If you spend the time building strong relationship foundations with children, whanau and colleagues then you are already half-way there to providing high quality early childhood education.
The climate crisis that the world is facing has the potential to make Covid-19 look like a teddy bears’ picnic. We all witnessed the panic when people thought the food was running out. Imagine what happens when the crops start to fail due to an increase in global temperature. This is the future that the children we teach currently face.
As teachers it is our responsibility to help to prepare the next generation of eco warriors. I would challenge everyone, including myself, to do more, always. Grow more vegetables, recycle more, take children into the bush more, do whatever you can to make children see that they are part of nature. The future of life on earth depends on it. The stakes simply could not be higher.