Tuesday, August 05, 2008
What’s it like to be a…Pre-school Teacher?
My job title is: Pre-school Teacher
My actual position is :
Wiper of noses, tie-er of shoes, singer/dancer/entertainer, tour guide through the wonderful world of new experiences.
What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If you’ve had this position for a while, how have things changed?
On a normal day, I get to school about an hour before the kids arrive and prepare the day’s activities. This might mean filling the sensory table with sand or rice or water, laying out books that relate to the week’s theme, getting out supplies for a science experiment, setting up materials for the rotating group stations, cutting out pieces for crafts, etc. This time is also spent talking with the other teachers on my team about any concerns or noteworthy items we have about individual students. Then the kids arrive and we spend a few minutes looking at books together until everyone gets there. Next we have circle time (calendar, weather, prayer time, letter of the week). After this comes a bathroom stop, followed by snack. Following that, we split up into our rotating groups; and the kids go around to three stations, each manned by one of the team teachers - the reading room, the science/creative center, and the math/music/manipulatives center. Each center has a specific learning activity each day that relates to the theme and/or letter of the week. An “educational play” type of activity to fill the rest of the time at that center. After these rotations are complete, we have large motor play time either outside on the playground or inside on the play equipment (dependent on weather). Then the kids go home. This sequence is repeated for the afternoon class. After the kids go home, I spend a little while planning lessons and preparing materials for upcoming days or weeks.
During most of the year this schedule is pretty consistent. In the weeks just prior to parent-teacher conferences, we spend a lot more time observing kids’ skills on specific activities so we can report their progress to their parents. In the week just before the Thanksgiving, Christmas, or spring program, we spend quite a bit of time preparing and practicing for the program.
I’ve only taught preschool for one year, so I haven’t seen it change at all yet!
What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
I graduated from college with a degree in elementary education and spent two years as a middle school teacher. My husband and I moved because of his job, and I looked for a teaching job that was a little lower stress level, and preschool is what I found!
What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
The child development classes and the teaching methods classes I took as part of my education degree do come in handy. It was also really helpful having some teaching experience. I would recommend volunteering or aiding in a classroom as much as possible before you get your own class. It’s great to have experienced working with older kids as well as younger kids so you can see more of the whole developmental spectrum when you’re trying to figure out why a 4-year-old does the things he does.
To be successful as a preschool teacher, I would say you should have the qualities of patience, some organization, creativity, enthusiasm, not being afraid of getting messy, and a passion for helping children develop into the best people they can possibly be.
What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?
Rewards: You get to see an enormous progression in all kinds of skills over the course of the school year - from counting and letter recognition to the ability to interact positively with other children and climb the stairs by themselves. Age 4 is also a very affectionate age, which is fun - you get a lot of hugs.
Challenges: It can be tiring trying to channel so much energy into positive activities! It’s also difficult when parents don’t want the same things for their children that you want, or when parents are extremely demanding of your time and attention. Sometimes you just don’t click with a kid’s personality, and it can be hard to treat that child with the same love and care that you give the other children and which they deserve.
A good day: The kids understand the concept you were trying to teach them through an activity, you get to have at least one heart-to-heart conversation with a child, and no one bleeds, breaks anything, or passes out.
What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
Probably longer hours for a preschool day. Parents are tending to want their children to be more and more “prepared” for kindergarten. I can see preschools having to be a lot more accountable to the public school systems with their curricula for the same reason.
How could a person find out more about your field?
Shadow in a preschool classroom for a day and set up a time to sit down with the director and ask lots of questions. It’s hard to get a feel for what it’s really like unless you experience it!
When you were growing up, did you have any interests that you have built into your work?
Yes - reading good books, and babysitting.
What was your first job like after college?
A lot of hard work and a lot of figuring out what I was doing by trial and error and a lot of asking questions.