It is important for Aleksi Vehmassalo, an early childhood education teacher, to offer children a safe childhood and growth environment. His work is guided by equality, children’s joy, and the relevance of work. He has a clear solution for the shortage of teachers in the sector.
Pre-school children grow and develop fast, and learn new things very quickly.
Aleksi Vehmassalo sees this concretely in his own work. He graduated as an early childhood education teacher from the University of Helsinki and gained the expertise to support the growth, learning and development of young children. He implements these teachings in practice at the Kankarepuisto daycare centre in Helsinki, where he works as a teacher for a group of 6–7-year-old preschool children.
– Although they are small children, we are dealing with big things. My job is to support the children to learn, to help them find their own strengths and provide them with a safe childhood and growth environment.
Aleksi strongly feels that the work he does is something that really matters.
– When I leave home from work, I never feel like it was a day wasted. All education, including early childhood education, compensates for socio-economic disparities.
Children's joy gives extra energy even on tired mornings
There are 14 children in Aleksi's group. He works together with an early childhood education assistant, and Aleksi is responsible for the group's pedagogical activities. That means finding suitable ways for children to learn new knowledge and skills.
The shortage of resources in early childhood education is a much-discussed issue. It is reflected in Aleksi's work, for example, as hectic pace and a tight teaching materials budget. Still, he says he experiences joy in his work every day.
– There are only a few workplaces where you can start your day with a bunch of happy people running to hug you. It gives me energy even on tired mornings. It is also great to see that I have succeeded in creating a relationship of trust with a child, that they can talk to me openly on various matters.
Things and values taught in early childhood education emerge from early childhood education and preschool education curricula. Aleksi considers the equality of education important in his work, and he really pays attention to it.
– I reflect on, for example, whether all people are treated the same way. Do I dare to face and address the prejudices of myself and also of my colleagues?
A teacher cannot be a mere title
In addition to the shortage of resources, there is public discussion about the need for early childhood education teachers. Aleksi believes the attractiveness of the profession is the sum of many things, but one especially: salary.
– Early childhood education teachers are highly educated, but the salary is low. People have been attracted to other sectors by better salaries, why wouldn't it also work in early childhood education? Salary is basically the reason that people work in the first place, Aleksi says.
The shortage of teachers is particularly evident in larger cities, with no qualified employees available for teaching in early childhood education. This is inevitably reflected in the quality of early childhood education.
– There is no shortage of pairs of hands but of trained educational experts. The teacher's title should tell the children's parents about the employee's expertise.
Cooperating in bringing up children
Fortunately, the appreciation for the sector has improved, and Aleksi believes that before long, the positive development must be reflected in the salaries.
Aleksi sees the value of the work concretely in the children of his group and their development. The results of the work done in the groups of preschool aged children during the year begin to show in the spring as the school year draws to a close. Aleksi also receives feedback on the children's learning curve from their parents.
– Bringing up children is a cooperation between early childhood education and homes. When we receive praise from the parents, we get a feeling that we have done something right. I am proud of the children, first and foremost, but also a bit of myself.