Disclaimer: Just like parental care and didactic/pedagogicA are strongly influenced by culture, religious views and personal opinions, childcare as an institution may differ depending on which country you are living in, which principles and philosophies it is based on and what the individual workers believe in.
When describing work requirements and training of new workers, the German educational/training system is used as a base. It is the system the author is most familiar with and the term 'kindergarten' itself was coined in Germany (by Friedrich W. Froebel).
It is important to note, that the German 'kindergarten' differs from the American institution of the same name. In Germany the word 'kindergarten' describes a daycare for preschoolers (age 3 to 6) which is often combined with a 'krippe', a daycare for children under a year. In America, for comparison, 'kindergarten' describes a one-year-long program that is meant to prepare a child for school, teaching basic reading and mathematics skills. Something similar exists in Germany, too, but it is combined with the 'normal' daycare experience (taking place in the last year the child visits the daycare).
In Germany a training of at least 3 years is required to work in a 'kindergarten' as a pre-school teacher. Without an 'Abitur' (for simplicity's sake you could compare it to a more advanced high school degree), another two years of training as a 'Sozialassistent' are necessary before you can start your training as a pre-school teacher.
Training covers the school subjects 'didactic/methodics' (how to teach others), pedagogic (general pedagogic but also music-, art-, sports-, and game-pedagogic; all seperate subjects), ethics, philosophy, social work, religion, history of childhood-education, physical care and hygiene, biology and housekeeping.
At the end of the training a thesis on a specific didactic topic has to be written and a practical demonstration of one's work has to be given (often in form of a week-long project that focuses on the subject of the thesis).
For such a long training (which, a couple of years ago, was completely unpaid), the monthly pay is rather low (some people go as far to say, that preschool teachers are underpaid 'normal' teachers). For comparison, a preschool teacher earns about 2400-2800 Euro1, the average earning in Germany however is about 3700 Euro a month2.
The lower income combined with prejudices about the work in a 'kindergarten' often leads to a certain amount of disrespect, that can, depending on region and social environment, be more or less obvious.
The two most often cited stereotypes are:
What to do with this information
Characters who work in childcare can be quite resourceful. They are quick to notice when things aregoing awry. Bad parenting, terrible social environment, living in a possibly haunted house or even demonic possession?
A preschool teacher might be able to notice changes in a child's behavior before the parents do, who might be preoccupied, stressed out or, in extreme cases, the root of the problem ('Miss, you have yet again brought a cursed artifact into your home. I am worried that your shopping addiction might negatively influence your children'.).
They work well as both main and side characters and describing their personal struggles makes them more 'human' then the 'happy elderly woman who just looooves kids and is always super kind and happy' stereotype.
Also you might get some ideas how to write a character's parents. Having them yell 'My child comes first!' at a preschool teacher sitting in a room full of children is a great way to show their entitlement. Or they might be genuinely nice and help with the preparations for the upcoming summer festival.
Their days in a daycare might be an important part of a character's personal history, after all some kids spend up to seven hours or even the night in one. Sometimes a preschool teacher sees the child longer than their own parents do-and might become an important point of reference to a child.
I in general want to encourage you to read a bit about early childhood development. There are so many stories that basically boil down to 'Had a bad childhood, might murder someone, idk', when children are far more resilient to psychological damage then most adults. It is just a fascinating topic that can help a lot when working on a character and especially their motivations.
Caring for children is a lovely job and most families are genuinely nice. Don't be fooled by this mostly negative text.
This was written for 'The Character Consultancy' (https://www.thecharacterconsultancy.co.uk/), by a 25-years old, male preschool teacher who loves his job and would only trade it for something that earns him significantly more money.
A: didactic = how to teach someone
pedagogic = how to raise someone (more in a social sense then simply caring for one's physical needs)
B: like electronic toys and video games (which are seen as detrimental to the social environment a kindergarten is supposed to have) and gun-like toys (children are not supposed to see a gun as something playful and fun and they possible could 'shoot' at a child who has not given consent to this kind of play, without them knowing-a sword or stick fight always involve engaging the other person, for comparison, so that they can object)
All cursive citations are taken from coworkers or parents, who shall remain unnamed).
Image by Elsapret