During my University days, I was a stay at home mom taking her courses through an online blackboard. I found that online courses allowed me to take care of my son and learn at my own pace. I was majoring in Sociology, and I knew I wanted to teach young kids or even work as a social science teacher. Overall, I really wanted to help children. Towards the end of my earning my degree, I couldn't believe how much my son, as a toddler, was growing! Those milestones were absolutely amazing, and how quickly he would absorb information was wonderful. It was at that moment that I began to do my research on early childhood education. I started to play school with my son at home and talk to him with a big words that he would then repeat. I knew it was time for him to start preschool.
I decided I wanted to teach wherever he went to school and applied to preschools with a real curriculums and had a recognized accreditation. I thought it was a “win-win” situation because he would be getting a fantastic education for his age and I would gain experience in teaching. I began to work as an assistant teacher and observed the day-to-day operations of the preschool.
As my son was learning and having fun socializing, I discovered an inner desire to become a leader at the community within the school. I normally do not like taking on a project unless I am really passionate about it and the job that was supposed to be an exchange of experiences ended up turning into something I took more seriously and, in return, I went to work with pride. The next thing I knew, I took the state mandated classes to become a lead teacher and was promoted to overseeing my own pre-kindergarten class.
Four years later, my son is in 1st grade (Doing fantastic!) and my 2 year old daughter is in a high quality preschool program with her Mommy. I am now a proud teacher to a classroom of three year olds and have become a professional leader and mentor to help guide other preschool teachers in my school (I am protecting the actual job description for not disclosing my company). I wake up ready to tackle the day, even though I have my days where I am wishing I could just stay quiet and alone in my house.
There are days that my career has its downfalls. I have so many rantings on my experiences from day-to-day "teacher life" that I could write a personal memoir of all my experiences. I come home some days really wanting to chug down a bottle of wine and cry in my car about how stressful it is and sometimes I say things in my head and have to call for someone to cover me while I collect my thoughts. I am human and everyone has those moments in their career. Now, what can possibly go wrong “playing” with kids all day? Well, let me rant or maybe just give you some advice about things I deal with on a daily basis.
1. You have to remember, children are little humans who are learning about the world around them. That means they will question everything you do. When you really need a piece of chocolate and you sneak in the closet to take a bite, they all will hound you like vultures wanting to know what it is you were doing. I look to my experiences with my own children and I remember why I can't eat around them when they're not eating. I even bribe one of the kids not to say anything out loud by giving them a piece of chocolate. It works 10% of the time.
2. Each child has their own personality. Oh yes they do! Sometimes they walk into the classroom, like me walking in if I forget to drink my morning coffee, and bring on the attitude. So if that child comes into your class and they yell that they "hate you," just give them their safe place, please. IT IS FOR YOUR SAFETY AND THEIRS! Remember, just like you, they need their time to collect their thoughts and come to terms with their feelings. Be aware of the parents as well. Some of those parents make me thankful that I am not an uptight Mom.
3. You work around women in a female driven work environment. Child care is predominantly staffed by women and you rarely see men in this line of work. That means you will be a target of "something." I learned that the best thing to do is stay quiet when drama occurs because no matter what, we all will gossip at some point in time. It is in our natures. I've worked with women who create a game of telephone and take something, or everything, you say personally. Example: I asked someone to fix their lesson plan (very nicely) and i heard 5 minutes later that I am too harsh on them. Always remember you should be there for the children and it is better to be with them in the classroom where they accept you and see you as perfect anyways!
4. You will have so much work to do! Many tasks include, but are not limited to, creating files of kid's work, taking antidotal notes, creating progress assessments, preparing the work for the week and designing lesson plans. You will do this all in an allotted planning period given to you. It could be nap time, lunch time, or even an hour before you get off work to go plan. Time is precious as a preschool teacher. If you don't have anything planned you will be in trouble. The days go by much easier when everything is structured and planned out properly and you will find the kids have less time for bad behaviors in the classroom.
5. While doing all of this work you need to remember that some facilities will keep to mandated state ratios and that just means that you will be the only adult to the little sugar filled children running around you. You have to really look at how you use your classroom management skills to make sure that no one is hurting someone else or themselves, hanging off the ceiling, or dumping their hair in the toilet (yes that has happened to me before).
6. With all this hard work of lesson planning, taking notes, watching out which little booger is about to wipe their sweat on your shirt, you need need to remember that the pay absolutely sucks! Preschool education is one of the lowest paying careers in the country. Sometimes it feels as if I am under appreciated and viewed as not really needing a quality education or credentials to teach these children. I take professional development courses each year as required by the state to ensure I am constantly learning and am highly qualified to be teaching young children. Children deserve me and others who truly care about their education as their teachers.
7. Working in preschool education you are mostly paid hourly and miss out on perks like paid sick leave. When the student-to-teacher ratios are very low the school will send me home and I miss out on pay for an undetermined period of time. My paychecks seem to be laughing at me in the face right now because working in the summer months I am lucky if I can secure six hours of pay a day. Be aware that preschools in the summer can be guilty of overstaffing teachers and displacing the student-to-teacher ratios based on the amount of children that participate in summer school. You have to remind yourself that you are not in this for the money at all.
These are just some opinions and experiences that most of us child care professionals feel about working in this line of work. I can say that it may be stressful some days but pursuing a career as a preschool teacher has personally been the most rewarding and caring job experience ever. There are some qualifications that you need to become a preschool teacher and in many states you do need an Associate's Degree or higher to teach in addition to the extra hours needed to understand the basics of childcare. For more information, find your state licensing department to find out what you would need to complete your certification.
Don't forget that in order to be a preschool teacher you will need to be:
Not afraid to act silly
Work under pressure to meet deadlines
Handle working with bodily fluids (because depending on which age you want to teach, you may get peed on or vomited on)
Sending Pixie Dust your way,