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Childhood Educator on choosing the perfect daycare and gentle parenting

With 40 years of experience in early childhood development Sharon Coetzee and principal at “Little Darlings Early Learning” shares advice on gentle parenting and moulding young minds.

How did your journey as an educator begin?

I studied teaching in 1980 and qualified with exemption. I knew as a young girl that teaching was what I wanted to do. I always kept my nieces entertained by telling them stories and teaching them little life lessons. It was a big surprise when I realised that I could keep their concentration and that I was great at conveying information.

The bug bit me and I decided there and then that teaching was going to be my career one day.

What attracted you most to teaching daycare-level students?

I wanted to make a difference in the development of children. I do believe that our young children are our future leaders…and giving them a firm foundation by moulding them when they are young is key.

Children copy their parents and they are easy to please and mould. I opened my school “Little Darlings Early Learning” so that I could lead by example. My methods of teaching are fun based but practical. I allow children to see, touch and experience concrete objects. They are not abstract creatures and learn and remember through actively participating in activities.

Sharon Coetzee, Image: Supplied

The early years are very important in learning and if children get a firm foundation they will become better people and are likely to be able to express themselves positively.

What do you like the most about working with children?

Kids are eager to learn when you make learning fun. I love seeing the excitement on their faces when I start my lessons and my biggest reward is when they pretend to be me when they play.

It gives me great pleasure to see them becoming more independent and are not afraid to ask questions…and that to me is my greatest achievement.

How would you help new parents feel that you’re providing the best care for their baby?

I tell new parents firstly that my daycare is registered, and I have 40 years of teaching experience.

It also puts parents at ease to know that we as staff love what we do, that the environment is safe, clean and that we never leave children unattended.

Sharon Coetzee, Image: Supplied

We have a stimulating environment with happy children and staff.

It helps to keep the parents updated during the day via whatsapp with photos and videos because it’s very daunting to leave your child with strangers for most of the day.

How would you describe your teaching style?

My teaching style is interactive based, which allows children to explore and socialise with each other.

As much as we follow a curriculum, kids must be allowed to be creative and have fun while they are learning. Children are more likely to remember things when they are actively taking part in activities.

How do you handle misbehaviour in the classroom?

When children misbehave I address the behaviour. I never use negative words like “naughty” and would say instead “what you are doing is not okay or acceptable” or “Kicking your friend is disrespectful”.

The child in question needs to apologise and then I would take privileges away such as no puzzles or Lego for the rest of the day.

Consistency is key and I don’t believe in shouting or hitting, that in itself is abuse.

The Darlings know that we need to respect each other at all times.

What is the greatest challenge facing daycare teachers?

The greatest struggle we face these days is the lack of resources. We would love to get help from the education department regarding teaching aids.

We would also love for our staff to have more opportunities regarding work shops. It’s uplifting when staff get the opportunity to learn new skills and the latest methods in teaching.

What is the greatest success you've experienced in teaching?

The greatest success for me is the fact that my reputation has preceded me. The schools in our area, especially Tamboerskloof Primary, accept all our Darlings with 80 percent of our children there.

What do you think makes a great daycare teacher?

A great daycare teacher should firstly be well educated and love children. They should be flexible, be a good listener and be able to encourage children to enjoy learning. Lastly, a great teacher should be well prepared for the day, have a bubbly personality and have the ability to be firm when needed.

What are your thoughts on “Gentle parenting” ?

My philosophy of gentle parenting is to raise confident and independent children. I believe that this teaches children to assert themselves. Gentle parenting when applied correctly works and helps children to build self esteem and to become emotionally strong.

What advice would you give to parents who are looking for a daycare for their kid/s? What should they look out for and what are some of the red flags they should watch out for?

Parents should make sure that the daycare is registered and has good health, safety and hygiene.

  • All staff should be trained.
  • The place should be well ventilated and have good lighting.
  • There should be good nutrition if they are offering meals.
  • There should be an outdoor space with climbing, sliding and swings, and the surfaces outside should have grass for a soft landing.
  • All the furniture should be on the children’s level, and there should be railings when you have steps.
  • Make sure that the children have a quiet room for resting and proper supportive beds on the floor for naps.

Red flags to look out for

  • An overcrowded place.
  • Lack of educational equipment.
  • Little communication with the parents throughout the day
  • Different fees for different age groups.
  • Sending children home when they cry or have a bad day.

Can you describe yourself in five words? Your interests outside the classroom?

I love reading physical books. I am a fitness fanatic and train every day. I believe healthy eating is important for good health and longevity.

Travelling and experiencing new countries and cultures give me great joy. Family is important in my life and I try to be a good role model to my children.

*Connect with Sharon on Instagram @sharicoetzee

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