That’s what Tahu Loper reckons he brings to his role at Kidsfirst Rutland Street. It’s a job he absolutely loves.
“I love being able to discover things you’ve forgotten about being a child. I love being able to take my shoes off on a hot summer’s day and walk through the sandpit. Every day is different.”
Tahu came to early childhood teaching after he was recruited by a teacher at his son’s pre-school, Te Waka Huruhurumanu ki Otautahi Bilingual Centre.
“I thought, ‘I’m not too bad at this’, so I did a Centre-Based Diploma course, doing the practical and theory at the same time, which suited me really well,” Tahu says.
He applied for a job at Kidsfirst Rutland Street in 2007, treating it as practice for his CV, because he knew it was a sought-after place to work. So he was surprised - and thrilled - to get the job.
“I really like the kindy system, it gives you more time to teach, and less time spent on managing behaviour, because the children want to be there, rather than having to be there. And kindergarten teaching is so well regarded as a profession, by parents and those in the wider community.”
“There’s a set pathway of advancement and then there are the holidays – with a wife who is a teacher, and two young children it works really well for me to have time with my family in the school holidays.”
He’s really appreciated the support from other men working in Kidsfirst kindergartens.
“We get together once a term or so, it’s great to be able to talk freely and share similar experiences, and how we all approach things.”
And he’s been able to put life skills and experiences to good use in the kindergarten setting.
“I’ve worked in heaps of different jobs, from a postman to a builder’s labourer, so I’m used to dealing with lots of different situations and people. People skills are essential in teaching – you need to be able to relate to the children, but also parents and your teaching team.”
He’s been further buoyed after taking a year out in 2011 to undertake a second language acquisition course, with the help of a Ministry of Education grant.
“It was total immersion Maori, so as well as learning Te Reo I got used to breaking language down to its simplest form. That’s been great for my communication skills – whether writing learning stories, or describing things to children, it’s good not to overthink things too much.”
For Tahu, kindergarten teaching is a hugely satisfying job, with many rewards.
“It rewards you when you are observing a child and your observations and conclusions are close to the mark, and it’s cool when you meet a kindy kid out and about and they still remember you from years ago. You know you are making a small difference in people’s lives.”