Education, Teacher Fitness

School Days!

A few months ago, I started working in a new school – about ten minutes away from where we live – teaching a new age group! It’s definitely been an adjustment on several levels, but I am enjoying my new job and having a lot of fun there.

First, I don’t think I can overstate how hard it is to be a working mom! Kudos to all of the single moms out there, because I don’t think I could run a household, take care of a baby, and work a full time job without a supportive partner. And, on top of the nonstop list of things to get done in both the home and professional arenas, there is quite a bit of sadness that surrounds dropping your child off to be with someone else all day, and there is a constant tinge of guilt for missing out on your child’s day to day development and interactions. I am so thankful that our son loves his teachers and his classmates – I definitely would not have been able to keep this job if I felt that my son was unhappy there – since he is there for eleven hours a day! I’m also grateful that I am able to take him to work with me every day. His class is in a different building, but I still get the chance to go and visit him, which is important. Finally, I’m grateful for the one day off that I have in the middle of the week. It’s been such a blessing to find a job that allows me to have schedule like this – it’s great to be a fake stay at home mom once a week!

Another huge adjustment that I am getting used to is the ratio of class sizes in my new state. In my old state, ratios for preschool children were much lower. The class sizes here are huge! Sometimes I feel that the ratios here have affected my teaching ability. With so many children running around, it is hard to get the one on one time with each of my students. I am often unsure of whether or not I am doing an effective job, because I don’t always get the chance to have quality time with each of them – though I try! One thing that has really helped with this is splitting our class into small groups for learning activities, which really gives me a better chance to focus on each individual child.

I wanted to share some of the activities we’ve been doing over the past month! My co-teacher and I switch off in terms of who is planning all of the lessons and activities. For two weeks, she will run the show by planning all of the lessons and preparing all of the materials, and I will support her by keeping the classroom clean and organized and keeping the kids busy when she is setting up activities. After her two weeks ends, it’s my turn to plan and execute all of the lessons for two weeks – and she helps me out by keeping up with all of the essential “background” tasks that help keep a classroom running. It’s a good system and I think it works really well for us.

I haven’t been there very long, but so far I have been in charge of the “Fall on the Farm” theme and the “Travel and Transportation” theme.

I painted a barn and tried to turn our dramatic play area into a farm. By the end of the two weeks, we’d filled it with crafts of corn, pumpkins, and various animals. We planted pinto beans in cotton balls and watched them sprout, we took our toy farm animals outside and traced their shadows, we painted and made prints with vegetables, weighed pumpkin seeds and corn kernels, and much more. It was fun to see the kids get excited about the fall season.

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In the middle of all this, our school held its pumpkin patch event and the kids got to go out and pick pumpkins. We spent some time dissecting a pumpkin and learning more about what was inside of a pumpkin and what types of things could be done with pumpkin seeds.

For our Travel and Transportation week, I attempted to turn our dramatic play area into an airport. I didn’t do as great of a job with that as I had hoped to do, but the kids still loved it and played in it. I even got some compliments on my airplane (which, if you ask me, wasn’t all that great). We made paper airplanes and flew them around our school gym, we inspected globes, maps, license plates, and fighter pilot attire that one of our parents brought in, we talked about boats and predicted which items in our classroom would sink or float, and we enjoyed creating a school-bus from a huge box that all of the kids could get inside of and play in. I really believe in the power of learning through play and I hope that I’ve given my kids some fun and engaging activities to help enhance their abilities in each of the domains of early childhood development.

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Education, Teacher Fitness

The Award For Most Improved

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I am a preschool teacher.
I absolutely love watching children grow and reach milestones in their development. As an infertile, teaching preschool is tough. But as an educator, teaching preschool can be so fulfilling at times.

I have actually  worked with all ages between three months and ten years, but I am currently  working with toddlers and twos. I am a lead teacher in a two’s classroom, and a substitute  teacher for infant and toddler classes when their teachers are out.

In my class, we have ten children, and one of them – we’ll call him “Max” – seemed to have some serious developmental issues. My kids stay with me for a full calendar year, and from the time Max joined our class almost a year ago until just a few months ago (June or July), I really had not seen much development.

My superiors at work were constantly asking if I thought he needed to be placed in special education, while my coworkers shook their heads at him and made comments to me like, “I don’t know how you do it!”  And I have to admit that there were a lot of times where I felt exhausted and truly challenged by this child. But deep inside I knew that Max was/is a typically developing child with no need for special  education  – just a need for more discipline, more boundaries, and higher expectations.

The first  time that I tried talking to his parents, I felt that they were uninterested  in anything I had to say. They seemed annoyed that I would find any sort of fault with their child and they seemed offended by my “implications” of their bad parenting. Perhaps I misread them, but this was the impression that they gave me.

For a long time, the mother barely spoke to me and I have no idea if this  was purposeful  or if she was truly  in a rush. But I felt that she didn’t like me at all! Meanwhile,  Max’s behavior and delayed development  seemed to be getting  worse and worse.

I’m  not sure what changed his parents’ mind, but I think it was when Max hurt another child and we warned them that our director has a three-strikes-you’re-out policy. They seemed to start disciplining more and mom even started talking  to me again!

She informed me that she was going to have him tested for any developmental delays and have him put in speech therapy.  Music to my ears. Of course, I told her my thoughts – which were that I encouraged the testing but honestly did not believe Max was incapable of being (developmentally) where he should  be, but that he was just not doing more than the bare minimum  because it was not required of him.

A specialist came to visit and observe Max during class, and I had a nice, long chat with her. It felt so good to know that she agreed with me and that she would do what she could to help Max’s parents and I get on the same page.

Max is now only a couple of days away from leaving  my class and graduating to the next age group, and thankfully  he is doing much better! I adore this little boy and am so proud of all the progress he has made in these short months. He is talking more, is doing more for himself, is less aggressive, is able to follow directions  and pay attention,  is making  choices (good ones!), and is just an absolutely  adorable  bundle of affection.
I’m so proud of him.

Preschool teachers often feel undervalued  and overworked – even more so than teachers who teach within a school system. We are often seen as little more than glorified babysitters, and we are not often taken seriously  by parents or professionals in other fields.

But seeing improvements in kids like Max and watching these kids gain confidence and independence makes it so worth it.

And I will be so happy if, one day, I can experience this type of pride in a child from a mother’s point of view.