As I say goodbye to my last student headed off to kindergarten, a new wave of little ones is filing in. For a Pre-K teacher, this time of year is full of emotion. Excitement for a new group of students, anxious to learn new and exciting things. Sadness for the old group that is moving on to the big leagues. Worry that "your children" will be confident and successful with the resources you've taught them, that they will make wonderful new friends but stay close with old ones and that their new teacher will understand and love them the way that you do. Then comes a preschool teachers biggest fear – that they will forget us. August is simply the most bittersweet month for a teacher like me.
Now parents, the new school year means new teacher, new expectations and inevitably a new learning process for yourself. Not every teacher has the same style, the same outlook or the same personality. This can be challenging for both students and parents to acclimate. But, regardless of your child's age or grade, there are a few things every teacher wants you to know.
- We are human. We WILL make mistakes. We will forget things from time to time. We become exhausted, frazzled and burnt out. I mean, imagine your children + 20 others every day. This doesn't mean that we like you or your child any less. This doesn't mean that you are not a priority to us. Sometimes we get so caught up in teaching or emergencies or, to be honest, HAVING FUN, that things slip our minds. Chances are we feel guilty every single time we have a brain fart and vow to never let it happen again (but it sometimes will). Bear with us.
- Picture day, party day and the full moon are a teacher's version of HELL. All of these things mean our classrooms will be disrupted, excitement is building and learning is at an all-time low. Children sense the change like animals ready to pounce at the first sign of vulnerability. We teachers endure picture and party days because it brings so much joy to our students, as well as their parents. There is just no positive for the full moon. While this may seem crazy to parents -- and I'll admit somewhat unexplainable -- the week of the full moon is like all of the children have become drug addicts. Sleep patterns are off, behavior is erratic, and for whatever reason any and everything that can go wrong, will. Please be kind to us during these times. We need it.
- There is a good reason I'm not at work. I can't speak for other teachers, but I know that I don't miss work unless it is absolutely necessary. But sometimes life happens. We understand that consistency is important when it comes to children and believe me when I say, sometimes staying home sick is more harmful than helpful. Relaxation and rest doesn't always come easy when you are worried that a certain child might have a meltdown if they get the wrong color pencil or that another child might pull one over on the sub and sneak treats out of the reward box. I have worked with bronchitis, fevers, strep throat, vomiting, diarrhea, migraines, etc because sometimes the kids and other teachers need me to be there for them. That being said, please don't send your kids to school sick. It's hard on everyone. (Keep in mind teachers also need mental health days and vacation to stay sane)!
- Please don't ask me to bend the rules for your child. Understand that I have to hold all the children to the same standards. Making exceptions is a slippery slope in my profession. Children will always gravitate to what is fair and just. It's hard to explain to them why one student gets special treatment if there is no legitimate reason.
But don't worry, there are some positive things to share, too...
- I celebrate all successes, no matter how small. It doesn't matter how silly or trivial it may look to an outsider. I shout at the top of my lungs when your child finally perfects the lowercase E. We fist pump when your child finally understands that tough math problem. We have a dance party the moment they read their first book and I will brag shamelessly about their accomplishments to any teacher that will listen. I am brought to tears the first time your child selflessly puts a peer's needs before their own or stands up for a friend. I am invested in their growth and development 100%. Pride isn't a strong enough word for those moments.
- I love them fiercely. Nothing is compared to the love of a parent, but a teacher's love is pretty darn close. I spend more time with my students and coworkers than I do my own family. We get to understand and love one another despite our faults. We see each other at our best and at our worst. I refer to my students as “my children” because for that year and every year after they are a part of me. While they may make me want to scream into a pillow some days, drown myself in wine on others, I cannot imagine going to a job where I am not greeted by tiny humans ecstatic to see me. When I curl or cut my hair, they always notice. When I'm having a bad day, there is always someone more than happy to give me a hug or hold my hand. When I'm at my wits end, one child will make me laugh until my sides split or bring me a flower (dandelion) they picked “just because.” Every birthday and holiday my students go above and beyond to make me feel special. It never fails.
- Happy Kids = Happy Teacher. I will always do what I feel is best for my kids. Teachers of all grade levels that go above and beyond for their students will always stand out because the children in their class are the happiest. Amazing teachers make learning fun, even if it means coming out of pocket to make that happen.
While I am not a parent myself, I do feel as though I have helped raise many, many children. I have been teaching at the same school for almost nine years now. That means I have had hundreds of students and families enter and leave my life. When I am lucky, I will occasionally remain a part of my students' lives after they venture off to elementary school and beyond. Just this past weekend I was curled up on a couch watching a movie with two former students, telling them stories of when they were toddlers, listening to their hopes and aspirations for the future and just relishing in the fact that I am fortunate enough to still be around to witness what awesome young men they have become. Connections like those are why teachers love teaching. I can still name every child I've had over the years because every child leaves a different and lasting impression on my heart. I hope to one day hear of their great successes.