Confessions of a Preschool Teacher
Reasons You Should Never Speak In Front of Your Kids (And other confessions of a preschool teacher)
They say there isn’t a more fulfilling career than teaching children. I tend to agree. I get a lot out of my job. The chance to make a difference in young lives. Unconditional love. Laughter all day long. Bucket-loads of sand in my shoes and the crevices of my clothes. Playdough on my bum, paint in my eyebrows and oodles of inside information about the workings of our little humans. Here’s what I want parents of preschoolers to know.
We know what you did last summer.
If you haven’t already learnt this the hard way (with your child blurting something private in a public space), allow me to give it to you straight. Your children are at all times collecting data to report back to their teachers. Like Christmas Elves, they are always watching and listening. Little Jasmine (4) once told me in great detail how her mum didn’t like wearing pyjamas: “She goes to bed nudie rudie but my dad likes it because he likes seeing my mum’s big bottom.”
Say yes to velcro.
Unless your child can tie their shoelaces or is in the process of learning how to, please for the love of Nike do not dress your two-year-old in Chuck Taylors. Ain’t nobody, especially a busy teacher, got time for that. Your child will go barefoot, catch a cold and spread it to your entire family.
We Love Feedback.
I hope, long gone are the days when teaching preschool is misinterpreted as ‘babysitting’. Today, in New Zealand and Australia, an overwhelming amount of planning and assessment is expected of teachers. If you’ve ever received a ‘learning story’ in your inbox, this is but the tip of the iceberg. Since parents are children’s first educators, our curriculum is dependent on their participation (unlike grade school teachers, we actually want parent feedback!). We love to hear what little Timmy gets up to at home, even the smallest things, as it’s these details which help us connect with our students as well as inspire our program.
M is for monkey bars.
If there’s anything parents of preschoolers are obsessed with, it’s with their children writing their names. If I had a penny for every time a parent has expressed this desire, well, I wouldn’t be a preschool teacher!
My advice is this: put your pencils down and go play on the monkey bars. Children’s muscle control and coordination develops in order of biggest (limbs) to smallest (60 combined muscles in the hands). Meaning, before a child can ace their pincer grip (necessary for holding a pencil), they should be able to climb, hang, swing, dangle, twist, turn, push, pull and tug.
Your Kids Hear Everything.
Just as little Jasmine heard her dad talking about her mum’s plump buttocks, she can especially hear the words Mum and Dad speak about her in her presence. One of my biggest pet peeves is when parents tell me their child is “shy”, “too sensitive”, “scared of ____”, as their child sits/stands/plays in earshot. If your child has working ears, they will hear what you’re saying about them, and they will start to believe it. If you have serious concerns, the solution is easy: talk behind their backs (and whisper!).
They will learn to use the toilet when they’re ready.
The first time little Tilly (20 months) did a wee on the toilet, her parents were so excited they threw her a ‘toilet party’. Her mum baked a lemon cheesecake and her dad rushed to The Warehouse to buy her a three-pack set of Disney princess briefs.
As it turned out, sweet Tilly was going to need a lot more than just three knickers. Like all things childhood, you can’t rush toilet training. The general consensus is if your little human has dry nappies for up to two hours, knows about poos and wees, and can pull their pants up and down, then they might be ready. Key word here is might. We teachers endured so many poonamis from very regular Tilly—what was she eating ... prunes?—before suggesting she return to wearing nappies. One year later, when Tilly voluntarily did a poo on the toilet, we celebrated with chocolate mud cake.
A little thank you goes a long way.
If you think taking care of one, two, three, four (what are you, a male seahorse?!) children is hard, try looking after ten at the same time (current government teacher-to-child ratios in NZ are 1:10). ‘Babysitting’ is easy. It’s like riding a bicycle. And the bicycle is on fire. And the ground is on fire. And everything is on fire because you’re in hell. And five children are calling your name. Three are tugging at your pants. And one is pulling at your toe hairs. Everyone, regardless of their careers, appreciates thank you gifts. We may say we don’t have favourite children but we’re lying. We do. We give extra love to the little monsters whose parents take care of us.