It’s time to start planning your lessons for the week. So, what do you do? You cut construction paper into different shapes, pick out three picture books to read, and print out coloring sheets.
Huh? What kind of lesson plan is that?
A preschool lesson plan of course.
The rest of your day consists of running on the playground, eating snack, and singing songs. Basically the easiest job in the world, right?
Well… I wouldn’t be too sure about that. You may not be teaching Organic Chemistry or AP Euro History, but being a preschool teacher is more difficult than you might think.
Here are some things you should know about being a preschool teacher:
1. This job requires some serious energy
You’re working with young children who have an endless amount of energy and I don’t care how fit you are, you will be exhausted when trying to keep up. Why? Because their energy isn’t just physical.
Not only are they constantly in motion (sitting still is a huge accomplishment for a preschooler), but they’re pretty new to this world. Their minds are constantly looking for stimulus. That means as a teacher or care provider, you have to be “on” all the time just to keep their attention. You’re not only a teacher, but an entertainer.
It’s truly incredible how much young children can learn and pick up, but it’s also truly mind blowing how easily they get distracted.
If you can’t make a lesson fun or are too embarrassed to sing songs and be silly, you probably won’t last as a preschool teacher.
2. You’re going to have to deal with major behavioral issues
Okay, so what you have to remember is that preschoolers are just starting to learn behavioral norms.
We know that it’s not cool to throw ourselves to the floor and wail because we didn’t get that last slice of pizza (though I’ve been pretty close a couple of times this year). But they don’t know that. They’re coming out of their baby stage where crying and screaming would get them what they wanted. It’s our job to teach them that it won’t work anymore.
The trick is doing this without getting angry. Easier said than done, trust me. Have you ever seen a really good tantrum?
Let me tell you—it’s an art form. A good tantrum can have your hair standing on end after one piercing cry. You have to be a specific type of person to be able to hear these horrible screams, not get angry, and hold your ground on the decision you’ve made; it’s so much easier to just give the kid the freaking pizza slice.
But in the long run that will only lead to more tantrums. So, you have to be patient, move the child to a less central location, and make it clear that screaming and shouting will not work.
3. You’ll take on a newfound appreciation for motor skills…
Here’s something that we totally take for granted: We can do things like feed ourselves and tie our shoelaces.
That is not the case for preschoolers. They haven’t developed these motor skills yet. Putting on clothes (don’t even get me started on learning how to button pants/shirts) is a real struggle. I mean, I may have trouble getting dressed in the morning, but that’s because I’m lazy and don’t want to put on pants, not because I’m physically incapable of doing it.
This is something you have to keep in mind while lesson planning. You can’t expect preschoolers’ projects to come out perfectly.
Those pictures on Pinterest of the perfectly cut out snowmen with the arms and buttons in all the correct locations? Yeah. A child did not make those. The projects you do with the kids in your class will not turn out that well—and that’s fine!
Also, certain children will develop fine motor skills and/or gross motor skills faster than others. Your expectations have to be different for each individual child.
4. And communication skills
Age, of course, also affects children’s communication skills. This is something to really keep in mind when choosing what age of children you’re going to work with.
My manager struggled when teaching the infant class at her preschool because they really couldn’t express themselves in any comprehensible way. There was crying and then there was crying, and then there was biting (and trust me, biting is the WORST).
When she transitioned to working with the older kids (five-year-olds) she had a much better experience because they could actually talk about what was upsetting them and how they were feeling.
Being a preschool teacher can be a lot of fun. You get to work with adorable children who are growing so much every day, are amazed by parts of the world we completely take for granted, and who just want to sing and dance all day long. But that doesn’t mean that this job is a walk in the park.
Before taking a job in this field, make sure that you understand everything that goes along with it. You may not have to be a rocket scientist, but you definitely have to have a specific skill set to be able to work with very young children.
Homework time! Preschools are always looking for volunteers. I did my required community service hours at a small preschool across the street from my university. Find out if you can help out at a school once or twice a week to see if you actually enjoy the work. Also, remember that not all preschools are going to be the same. It might be good to volunteer at different places so that you can see how different teaching and discipline styles work.