In the trenches

It has come to my attention from a couple of peers and new teachers that nobody ever really prepares teachers for the nitty-gritty of being in the classroom.  College classes arm you with theory and inspiration and idealism, but there’s no true prep for the stuff that you didn’ think would happen.  (Ex:  During the story you’re reading your aide is out of the room taking a child to the bathroom and someone throws up all over.  Or, Timmy hides under the table every time his father comes to pick him up, and Dad doesn’t do anything about it.)  Of course, I realize that nothing except ‘living through it’ can teach you about these situations, but wouldn’t it be nice if you had a clue? 

I’m percolating about the best way to address this.  Is it a class/workshop for pre-teachers called, “You never thought this would happen, did you?”  Where they are given several real-life situations to brainstorm about, the idea being, “What is your plan?  Now what is your plan when the first plan completely fails?  And your back-up plan for that?” 

Should it be a book?  Is that too anecdotal?   I have to say, I could probably write a book about the angst of teaching preschool, but it would be pretty specific to my situation.

Should this website be more like a blog?  I could list things that happen during my day, and perhaps it would be helpful to the stray person who comes across this site?  (And you, Lindsey. :)

I don’t know.  I’m in the trenches – someone who lives it everyday and has come to do certain things out of habit that work for me.  I’ve come to realize that making it look easy doesn’t mean that it’s actually easy.  It is work.  Every day.  It exhausts me. 

I know that the comments are turned off, but if anyone has a suggestion, I’m open to it.

They will cry.

It is a fact of life. Preschoolers cry.  There are many, many ways to deal with it, and I’ll just share some thoughts.

At the beginning of the year, just be ready to have a lap available at all times. I’ve read stories at group time holding someone on my lap.  Be available for the adjustment tears.

As the year goes on, you’ll have to help them develop some self-soothing skills.  If they come in teary, then (we have group time first) I smile and invite them to sit close to me, but on the floor.

Sometimes the tears are just sad tears – missing mom and dad, hurt feelings, being tired.  Then I ask if I can have a hug, then we snuggle for a bit – then find something to do together.   “Let’s put a puzzle together.”

If the tears are for a wound, I scoop them up and we get a band-aid/paper towel/drink of water, and comfort is lavished on the child.

These are all examples of ‘valid’ tears.  Now, there will be tears for other reasons, and you’ll need to handle those differently.  (When I first taught, I had a little girl would would cry and argue to get her way, and as a newbie teacher – I gave in.)  When the tears are from something other than sorrow or wounds, I ask, “Tell me why you’re upset.”  I then make sure they tell me in a big kid voice – not a crying voice.  Then we talk the problem out.

If you have a constant cryer, help them identify what they are doing.  “Ann, you are crying big tears like you scraped your knee.  Joe took your pencil.  This isn’t something that needs tears, you need to use your words.”

First year teachers, you will need to develop a thick skin.  Don’t become cold and cruel, but become immune to crying.  See the situation for what it is, and react accordingly. 

Accept ALL donations, but….

People will love saving things for you to use in your classroom – egg cartons, old ribbon, film canisters, plastic whatevers. In fact, so much will be collected, you will never ever be able to use it all.

So don’t keep it all. I say this because if you keep it all, you will not be able to store it well, and the mess will make you crazy. (Or your co-workers crazy.) However, always graciously accept anything given to you. If you refuse something, you might miss out when they have something really cool to give away!

Recycle un-needed donations if it makes you feel guilty to throw things away, but please don’t keep a lot of stuff out of guilt. That’s poor stewardship.

It reminds me of a little saying – “When life gives you lemons, thank life politely and then throw them away when life isn’t looking.”