Being part of the mentor program where I have student teachers in my classroom setting daily and participating in the graduate program has me reflecting on all the positive networking that happens in college and with other like minded individuals. I am proud to say I have stepped up my social media presence both in offering my blog musings but also in sharing my daily activities in Instagram and Facebook. However, I have also been reflecting on the missing pieces of college instruction in relation to actually working with young children.
I have decided to offer the top 5 reflections I have had over the years – those that college doesn’t teach you. I am a life long student- I have been teaching PreK for over 20 years and have been taking classes and workshops for just as long. Never have I attended a seminar that lays it all out there- I am here to tell you your first year will be rough (you’ll want to quit) and rewarding (you won’t be able to sleep from all of the amazing ideas running through your head) and no amount of textbook reading will prepare you for the actual experience. So buckle up- be prepared to laugh and cry at a moments notice and continue to be professional while doing it!
Caffeine keeps me going! That and a decent breakfast. PreK is a busy age group, be ready; mentally, emotionally, and physically.
1. How to keep order when the lesson is interrupted.
This could be for any number of reasons but the one they fail to mention in structured courses is when a child vomits/gets a bloody nose that won’t stop/has a bathroom accident/etc. My advice is put one of your children in charge for the moment. You know the one- they are constantly organizing the games on the playground- natural born leaders-outspoken- always keeping you on track during the day- use them. Have them begin a game of duck duck goose or start the hokey pokey. It will give you a few needed minutes to make a phone call to the office/mom-dad/or whoever is your back up adult. It may not be ideal but it will save your sanity!
2. When wildlife happens into the educational day you need to be prepared- with knowledge and quick reflexes.
We have had baby skunks- baby bunnies- birds- bees-creepy looking spiders- and mice venture into my classroom (we live in a rural area with agricultural fields near us and major home developments going in all around). Having wildlife services on speed dial has proven a positive experience for me. I also arm myself with knowledge before school starts. Top 5 poisonous spiders in my area- I know them by sight. Top 3 reasons skunks will be out in daylight- I know them. Rules for What to do if you find baby animals without a parent- I know them. Knowledge is power and having peace of mind that the skunks out in daylight are probably not rabid and merely in breeding season (February) will give you a discussion topic for the next inquiry based project while you wait for wildlife rehab to show up.
Writing the paint colors on the tops of the jars saves time- no more rummaging through the cabinet in the morning!
3. How to handle not so pleasant facility issues.
Bathroom toilets get clogged- sinks begin to run slow- garbage cans can have gunk in/on/around them- water faucets leak. I work in a program where parents and myself are the janitorial staff and if the toilet gets clogged during class you can bet it’s me fixing that issue. Again knowledge is power. I took a handyman class at my local Home Depot (seriously) when I first started living on my own and it has paid for itself a million times over. I know where the water shut off is to my sinks and toilets. I practice turning them on and off before school starts and keep the necessary tools on hand to help me just in case. I know how to remove the sink trap to save paint brushes – and I have been known to replace vacuum parts while organizing small group tables. I also have a basic understanding of electrical breakers and know when one is tripped and how to fix it without electrocuting myself. Each of these is preventative in the short term- but it allows time so that I can make that phone call to the professionals and I can get back to educating little people.
4. Know the ingredients in your paint/playdoh/and sensory materials.
This helps you to know if a child has developed a nasty rash on their hands or if the purple paint sometimes just stains fingers a blotchy pink. Have a basic understanding of how many marbles you let the children use so that they can all be returned and not go home hidden away in body parts- and what to do and where to look if the beads are disappearing. I know that we all think that non-toxic and washable items should be safe, and in a perfect world we would never have a single item in the room that is smaller than a child’s fist- but this step just cements peace of mind when you have 18 children doing their own thing and the eyes in the back of your head have not yet fully developed. Don’t worry you will earn those extra eyes – as well as ears that tell you which child is sneaking/stomping/running/walking down the hall. It just takes time and getting to know your littles.
5. The real results developed in a classroom setting each year are those that impress upon your heart, not necessarily documented on paper.
No matter how many classes I teach the one constant that cannot be taught in college or developed on a formal assessment is the satisfaction I have when a child masters a skill or asks a question that shows me they are getting it. Offering inquiry based activities that allows a child to express his/her innermost thoughts is a window to their souls. When I can reach them because I have thrown out the lesson plan for the day and really listened to their hearts I am reaching milestones. I then find creative ways to document how we have reached the developmental stages, objectives and goals of an activity.
Take the time to get to know the space: take everything out, go through all of your materials, and organize according to your understanding. You will be living in this room for a majority of the day; so make it yours, make it beautiful, know what’s in it, and have regularly used items at your fingertips.
I hold my love for this age group on my sleeve (and DEEP in my heart) -my wanting to work with littles is a calling- and although it isn’t for everyone it is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I hope a few of these tidbits of information help you in your daily interactions. Sound off in the comments about anything I forgot!
Until next time- I am off to shape little minds and make sure no one uses the dirty Q-Tips.