Zhixiao Yang - Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education
Watching his mother as an early childhood educator inspired Zhixiao Yang to pursue the same career.
After initially studying a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and History at the University of Auckland, Zhixiao discovered a calling into the Early Childhood sector.
“My mum was an early childhood kaiako, and I liked to hear her stories about how fun it is to work with tamariki and see their learning progress.
“I also used to teach tamariki how to play the piano – they could always impress me with their imagination and creativity in playing.
“All of these things made me feel interested in the early childhood sector. Combined with the knowledge of humanities and social sciences I learned during my Bachelor of Arts, I decided to pursue a career in teaching, majoring in early childhood education.”
He says his favourite part of the one-year programme was practicum, where he was able to apply what he learned from university into practice.
“I got to know many experienced early childhood kaiako who have worked in daycare centres and kindergartens for years. Moreover, as some of them used to work in other careers, they brought their knowledge and experiences into the early childhood sector, which I found valuable.”
I feel the [courses] are engaging, necessary and helpful in preparing students
to be early childhood kaiako.
Zhixiao says the guidance of experienced teachers across the university and ECE centres was invaluable.
“Every student is assigned to a professional supervisor (PS) from the university and an associate teacher (AT), one of the qualified teachers in the practicum centre, to be given guidance.
“I documented my daily teaching and learning experiences in an online portfolio and they would leave comments and ask me questions to help me reflect on my practice. My associate teacher would also help me when I was unsure about anything during practicum.
“She also introduced me to the 'Incredible Years' programme, which includes the latest research and practices about developing tamariki’s self-regulation skills. Meanwhile, I observed my associate teacher's teaching strategies and learned to practice with her guidance in using music to engage with tamariki, such as during the mat-time and the free-play time in the centre.”
Zhixiao says the university components of the course were equally valuable in preparing him for ECE.
“I feel they are engaging, necessary and helpful in preparing students to be early childhood kaiako. For example, in the ‘Creative Arts in the Early Years’, teachers would demonstrate to students how to help children gain learning experiences using music, drama, visual arts and dance, during which students can access the music studio, the arts room and other facilities.”
Zhixiao wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the programme to others and has some advice for those choosing to study.
“Be familiar with and go through Te Whāriki, course readings and other key documents because they can be valuable when students think about their teaching strategies and reflect on their practices. Also, be patient, especially when working with children.”