- Vidhya Natarajan
|Program||:||Early Childhood Education|
Vidhya Natarajan worked in IT before having her son. After he was born, she became fascinated with the way young children learn. One of her friends recommended that she take a class at UCSC Extension, where she enrolled in an Early Childhood Education child development course—a decision that ultimately changed the course of her career. Since receiving her work permit, Natarajan accepted a job teaching at Montessori school.
What made you interested in child development?
I am from an IT background, and didn’t have plans to work in education, but after I had my son, I started volunteering in his classes. When my son was very small, he was with me all the time. It occurred to me that to understand kids in a better way and to enjoy every aspect of it, we should fully know the way they think and do stuff. So to achieve that, Extension’s ECE classes helped me a lot. When I first started taking courses, I wanted to learn more about child psychology, and within a month or two, I realized I wanted to do the certificate.
What classes stood out to you?
I enjoyed “ECE: Creative Arts for the Young Child (Preschool Through Grade 3)”, and I liked “ECE 9: Language and Literacy for the Young Child” because, being in the Bay Area, it’s helpful to know how to teach bilingual children.
My classmates shared what happened in the classes that they teach, and the real-life examples were really helpful. I really enjoyed the classes.
How did the ECE classes help you as a parent?
We as parents expect kids to understand us and do things according to our time and speed, but in reality, kids have their own way of thinking and doing things. So by taking ECE classes, I learned that both parent and the kid can be happy by understanding them properly and giving them choices, so they can make their decisions. The classes helped, too, for understanding how to interact with other kids, not just our own. If you’re in a park, and you want to interact with kids in a group, or want to know how to handle a situation—that knowledge was really helpful for me as a parent. To be frank, every day I am learning something new from the challenges I face from kids at home and in classrooms.
What did you do for your practicum?
The practicum was awesome. What you learn from a book is not the same as what you learn in a classroom. Our instructor ran the class very well; every week we had to present what we’d learn on a video or audio recording. I volunteered at a school called the Choo Choo Train, where I designed curriculum for mixed age groups. I taught art for the younger kids (2 ½ - 3 years old), and got to work on math and science with the after-school kids. I learned a lot—and I really liked the experience.
What advice do you have for early childhood educators?
Being around kids is the best job, though I understand it’s a real challenge. Once you have the tools to handle kids, it’s a really happy place to work. I definitely recommend to anyone who wants to work with kids to start with ECE courses. Teaching young children is kind of a meditation, once we get it, we can master it. I learned that from taking classes at UCSC Extension.