Students Get Solid Grounding in Child Care Patience, Communication Skills and `Tools of the Trade' Give Future Careers a Boost

Article excerpt

Taria Hursey, 17, sits at a child's-size table to help 4-year-old Justin match shapes to a puzzle.

"Show me the shapes, Justin," she urges. "What's this one?"

Justin, a serious youngster with warm brown eyes, hesitantly pushes around the shapes made from wallpaper samples with one finger.

"Humm . . . Ah ha!" he exclaims as he finds a match.

Taria, a senior in North County Technical High School's child-care program, is equally excited. She has helped Justin learn a new skill.

"I'm so proud of you, Justin," she says as she gives him an enthusiastic hug. "You did it all by yourself."

North County Tech's child-care program is a two-year class designed to teach students the skills needed to work as an aide in a licensed day-care center. Darlene Young, director of the program, says students learn all aspects of working in a day-care center, including writing and carrying out lesson plans.

They learn how to set up a classroom, decorate walls and bulletin boards and make snacks in the center's kitchen.

The students also fill a notebook and a file box full of ideas and games for working with children - as Young says, "tools of the trade."

The high-school juniors and seniors spend half their day in the child-care center to work with children and on classroom projects. The other half of their day is spent in academic classes at North County Tech or another high school in the area.

"We learn things like, `How do you communicate with a child? How do you console a child?' " Young says.

Good child-care workers need to have patience and a desire to work with young children - lots of young children, Young tells her students.

"You may like children on a one-on-one basis," she says, "but when you get 10 to 12 together, they all go in different ways. I tell students they are working with a warm body, not a piece of machinery. What you do will impact the rest of their life. …