I’m going to be completely honest here. Straight forward, no sugar coating, and maybe even a little blunt. I’m not just a preschool teacher.
I feel like there is a stigma attached to being a preschool teacher, but there is no “just’ about it. It’s time to give preschool teachers the true credit they deserve.
After all, how equipped are you to spend your entire day with eight to eighteen four-year-olds? Seriously.
Let me tell you a secret. Teaching preschool was not my first choice. I spent five years in college to end up wth a graduate degree, and I had no plans to use it to “just” teach preschool. There were better levels to teach. Or, so I thought.
Pastures Greener Than Preschool
But, I was a young teacher, and when my husband and I moved across the state after spending all our savings on a summer long vacation in Europe, I’d missed all the public school job postings and had to take a position teaching preschool.
It was not what I wanted.
I quickly learned that being a preschool teacher required me to work much harder and for not even barely livable pay. I’m talking $8.50 an hour. How was I supposed to support my husband in his graduate school on that wage?
So, when a third-grade position opened two days before school started, I didn’t hesitate to leave that preschool position for greener pastures. What my new and young teaching heart didn’t understand at the time, is that childcare positions deserve more respect.
They are just as “prestigious” as any other teaching position. And while preschool teachers aren’t teaching their students how to multiply and divide and write three paragraph stories, they do important work.
Such very important work.
But, I didn’t learn that until I became a stay-at-home mom and got to play all day with my children.
Playing All Day
You can take the classroom away from a teacher, but you can’t take the teacher out of teaching. It’s practically compulsive. Teachers cannot help themselves. So when my husband finished graduate school, I was able to stay home with my son, something I always knew I would want to do.
But as a stay at home mom, I am still a teacher. I cannot control it. I must teach.
So, I taught my son. He was just a toddler at the time, but I taught. We would play all morning. While my son played trains we would talk, developing his speech skills. While he practiced his puzzles, I would tell him about the farm animals on the pieces and then I found myself doing farm themed activities with him.
Before I knew it, I was invited to participate in a preschool co-op with three other mothers, each of us sharing the responsibilities of teaching and nurturing these young minds. And then I found myself running a preschool co-op, and then opening my own preschool.
Yes, we play, but we also do so many other things.
This is What Preschool Teachers Really Do
That’s right. We play. Because children learn the very best through play, and not so well by just sitting and listening. Sometimes that play is child-lead, sometimes it is teacher directed. Sometimes we are immersed in it, modeling appropriate use of materials and social skills, other times we sit back and observe so we can better learn how to tweak our lesson plans. Because even play requires some preliminary planning to be valuable.
We create lesson plans based on the developmental needs of the children. For the child who is lacking hand strength, we make a special playdough so she can practice squeezing. For the child who questions the way things work, we put together a special tinker tray. For the child who lacks the confidence to make friends, we invite him to play and make him feel loved and welcome. As preschool teachers, we are always creating. Creating activities geared to the need of our students, but also always creating an environment of growth and love.
We Sing, Chant and Do Fingerplays
Wow! There is no much singing and chanting that happens in preschool! We sing good morning to each other.We chant interesting thematic facts. We sing while washing our hands. And we do fingerplays to get our hands and bodies ready for quiet learning. Singing, chanting and fingerplays are not only fun and make the children feel welcome and interested, but they are also some of the best ways to increase oral language skills.
We Care for Children
I know this is a given, but let me explain what it really means. We care for children. We care about them. Their emotional and social well-being, their physical and intellectual well-being. We care for and about all of it. Every little bit. And nothing gets dismissed as trivial. Because to those little people with big hearts and bigger emotions, it is all such a really big deal. We understand that and respect them for it.
It’s true. We love our students. We understand the development of young children, and because of that understanding we love our students. We know that children are relying on us to help them feel safe, secure and comfortable away from their parents. Children depend on us to teach them academics but to also teach them cause and effect, conflict resolution, cooperation, communication skills, all while encouraging their need to explore their curiosities and make them yearn for more. We provide a safe and developmentally appropriate place to take risks. To try something new just to see what will happen. To make messes and to be special helpers.
The Truth About Preschool Teachers
But this all boils down to one thing: we clearly don’t do this for the money.
Because while one group of students are exploring an invitation to play and taking it further than you ever imagined, making you proud and excited for them, there is another set who might be smearing slime on the walls. Or there might be a biter. Or half the class doesn’t like the snack while the other half spills their water at snack time. Or playdough gets smeared into the carpet while another student has just thrown about fifty small plastic bears up into the air to scatter them everywhere. The list goes on.
While the content of preschool may not seem too difficult, or “rocket science” as a friend put it, let me be clear that this is a profession that deserves respect. It may not require a degree or licensure, but it certainly takes a special kind of person to play with and teach three and four-year-olds all day long.
But we do it. Because we love children.
As people who need hugs and magic blows on hurt elbows. As people who make us happy and make us better teachers.
We are not “just” preschool teachers. Just ask any child who has been in one of our classes or schools. We are preschool teachers. A profession we work for and are proud to be a part of.
What Every Parent Needs to Know
I’ve paired up with some of the best childcare and preschool bloggers to bring you several posts about childcare. Each post below features a unique perspective about what childcare and preschool looks like and what it means to be in this profession.
5 Myths About Early Childhood Educators // Preschool Inspirations
What an In-Home Preschool Looks Like // Things to Share and Remember
What Does a Childminder Do? // Clare’s Little Tots
8 Truths About Home Daycare // Where Imagination Grows
More Than Just a Provider // Little Sprouts Learning
Not “Just” a Preschool Teacher // Stay At Home Educator
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.