Teaching Preschool: 8 Things Learned In My First Week Back
This week marked our first full week of classes. For my darling daughter, this meant her first week of preschool. For me, it was my first week back to work as an Early Childhood Educator (aside from occasional subbing). Besides taking on the role as a preschool teacher at the most adorable and historical schoolhouse, I’ve also accepted an invitation to assist in transitioning the children into the new school year at a K-3 nature class.
I’m thrilled to have a chance to get back to my ECE life and feel like a professional again, and have been enjoying gaining a better understanding of what a Kindergarten class looks like in operation. I am certain that what I’m learning there will help me be a better preschool teacher. Experiencing what Kindergarten is like will help me more clearly understand what these children need to be learning now so that the transition to Kindergarten is as smooth and successful as can be.
As a teacher, a huge part of my job is learning. Not for the kids exclusively, but learning for myself as well. Learning never stops, and I believe it’s important for the children to see that we are all continuing to learn and grow in our own journeys. So. What have I learned? (Note: All photos of children at school are stock photos – I will never post photos of children in my classes without receiving explicit permission from the parents and children to do so.)
What I Learned This Week At Preschool & Kindergarten
Split grade classes have many pros and challenges.
On one hand, I can see that the varied ages gives more opportunities for the children to learn from each other. This sets the stage for making meaningful connections, building empathy, learning through teaching classmates, and achieving confidence through role modeling. On the other hand, giving all the children opportunities to focus and receive developmentally appropriate instruction at their different grade-levels is a tremendous challenge. Especially seeing as some of the Kindergartners have never had an out-of-home experience in a learning environment such as this. I have a huge respect for teachers of split grade classes now, especially when the split is as vast as the difference between Kindergarten and Grade 3.
Listening skills are the most important thing to focus on before Kindergarten.
To learn and understand anything that is being taught or said to you, you need to be able to listen. Listening is not inherent, it is a skill, and involves more than just hearing sounds. I will continue to offer and value circle time as an important piece of my preschool class, as this is one of the greatest times when listening and attending is learned.
Preschool and other group early learning experiences are hugely important to successful transition into full-day Kindergarten.
Especially when they are entering a split-grade class. There is so much to cover and such tight windows of time for each of the concepts to be explored. Having children who have never learned to sit peacefully and attend to instructions, and have little experience interacting in a social group, is a very apparent challenge. This challenge leaves, not only those children who have not had these early learning experiences at a disadvantage, but also causes the entire group to be compromised. As so much time is spent either redirecting and guiding the children who are not familiar with group learning, less focused time is left for covering the curriculum.
Of course, constantly having to be redirecting and repeating can take a toll on the educator, as well. A frustrated educator has a tougher time being the teacher they want and need to be. (Note: The teacher of the class I’m in has been fantastic, but I’m sure the frustrations are hidden in there.)
Please, parents. Do not discount the preschool years. Preschool and other early learning environments (like StrongStart) are the most gentle, caring and accommodating way to learn the skills that are such a necessity to a successful transition to Kindergarten. Better for them to learn how to listen, attend, socialize, and be comfortable without mom or dad with multiple, capable educators, than it is to throw them into Kindy as a first group learning experience with only one adult who may or may not be familiar with the needs of their developmental level.
Older children intimidate me.
Especially the older boys. Being part of the K-3 class has been a huge learning experience for me already, in putting on my big-girl pants and learning new ways of interacting with and guiding the older students. I know it seems silly to be intimidated by a 7-year-old, but when you’re used to guiding 3- and 4-year-olds, who (for the most part) are much more eager to please their teachers, those older kids can seem so big and so defiant. Not letting my timid side show so clearly, and practicing my adult voice while still keeping it light and fun is going to be a challenge that will no doubt help me be a better teacher now and in the future.
Nature classes are awesome!
Can you imagine anything more pleasant than sitting on stumps outside in the fall sunshine, singing songs and taking numerous breaks to play games and explore nature? I wish I was still going to be around after the first month, when the class starts to venture into the forest. What a way to learn!
Place makes all the difference.
I’ve noticed such a difference between teaching preschool here on Salt Spring Island and teaching preschool on the North Shore of Vancouver. The community feels so different here (again, for the most part). There is nary a nanny bringing the children to drop off or pick up, and many of the parents seem to work from home, and spend less time away from their families. There is a certain respect – for nature, for oneself, for others, for materials – that was less evident to me in Vancouver. The different way of life and environment here, I believe, paves the path for different priorities and valuing natural ways of being. I quite enjoy it, and have actually already wrote about the amazing children of Salt Spring last year, when I started subbing and spending more time in childhood educational settings. You can read that post here, if you like.
Going to bed at a decent hour makes me feel so much more alive and well.
Shocker, I know. I’ve always had such a hard time going to bed. I deeply dread that point where I have to call it a day and end it. However, I’ve been trying really hard to push myself to go to bed at a time that makes sense and ensures I will easily wake up when my alarm clock goes. I think the first day was a shock to my system, waking up several times before my alarm, my body not knowing what to do with all that sleep.
I supremely suck at having dinner and Z’s bedtime happen on time.
Hubby and I have chatted and known that we needed to (and should have already) start stronger routines. Routines where a) dinner is made on time where we can all sit down as a family and b) Little Miss Ziggity is put to bed unrushed, on time, and with an adequate routine to wind down for the day. I am failing, you guys. Big time. We’ve had one day so far – ONE DAY – where this actually happened. As my hubby said, it’s tough when it’s still summer weather out there and we want to take advantage of the daylight while we can to do the things we enjoy doing, like heading out on the boat or going to play a round of disc golf. But, we really need to focus on prioritizing our daughter’s needs and building these routines to help her be successful in our new experiences.
I think we need to be more clear with the others in our life that, while we would love to be doing what we want to do, what we really need to do is be responsible parents first and foremost. Once a routine is build and settled into, then we can start having “off days” where we say “Sure, tonight can be a little later.” But for now, I think this mama is going to have to be the strong one and puts my foot down to make sure my little one gets what she needs. We have had more than our fair share of fun and flexibility. It’s time to balance that out.
I see I’ve already spewed out almost 1400 words, so I will stop there. I’m sure there’s much more I’ve learned, and even more that I will learn. Ah, how happy it makes me to be back into all of this again.
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