Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ooops....Things They Didn't Tell the Preschool Teacher!

I remember my first job working in a classroom of 3-5 year old kids.  I was fresh out of college with my degree in hand and confident that I knew what I was doing.  I also remember the long hours I spent getting my room just right for my first group of kiddos.  Everything was going to be perfect!  I survived my first day with a few battle scars.  I quickly learned that while I knew what I was doing with young kids...I did not know all the little details that you simply cannot gain without experience. 

Fast forward to today...I teach college age students how to work with young I tell them everything they need to know?  Probably not...experience is so important.  Many great "lessons" are learned spending time in early childhood settings with real live children.  Some of those great lessons are learned from mistakes and a lot of trial and error. 

Over the years I have compiled a list of some of those things that no one tells the early childhood teacher.  I am going to share my list here.  It is broken down into 3 sections:  "What to do", "What to know", and "What to have".

What to do:
  1. Check children's file (without prejudging)--although I swear boys whose names begin with a "J" are out to get me.
  2. Send a note/email to introduce yourself to the families--tell them who you are and why you are going to be so awesome!
  3. Send a note to the new children--kids love to get their own mail!
  4. Let parents know what to save throughout the year (toilet paper tubes, grocery store bags, baby food jars, coffee cans, egg cartons, etc.)  NOTE:  You may have to request storage space for all the "junk" that filters in.
  5. Remember to greet children and families each day!  We get wrapped up and sometimes forget this one.  Oh...and be cheerful!
  6. Make labels for everything--cubbies, shelves, cots, supplies, your personal books, your extra kleenex stash (#7 on a later list).
  7. Stock up on supplies--this may lead to hoarding but if the things are used I figure it all balances out.
  8. Tour the building with children for emergency drills and exits before the real drills. 
  9. Introduce all staff to children--so they have a name for the "trash man".
  10. Plan as many displays as you can early on--bulletin boards, documentation panels, etc.
  11. Make early and positive contact with families.
  12. Tell families, "I won't believe everything your child tells me about your home life, if you won't believe everything your child says happens at school".
  13. Start a newsletter and make it a regular--keep track of ideas on your calendar for future editions. 
  14. Join an early childhood professional organization--it doesn't have to be a national organization but it should act as a support group.
  15. Get enough rest, eat well, and exercise (activity on playground counts).
What to know:
  1. That is it okay to mistakes...and how to laugh them off!
  2. Parent-Teacher Conference dates.
  3. How to defend play...this is important to remember in conjunction with #2.
  4. Other important program dates--professional development days, program wide celebrations, Dr. Suess' birthday!
  5. Where to go for advice...program director, mentor, friend, university advisor, web site.
  6. Rules about field trips, fundraising, holiday parties...what do you mean we cannot pass out Valentines?
  7. Dress code--avoid things that require dry cleaning or Spanx.
  8. The whereabouts of the licensing regulation book and accreditation materials
  9. Keep lesson plans from year to year.  You may want to do them again or use as a reminder that it sucked the first time so don't waste your time.
  10. Planning is great and very important but flexibility trumps planning!
What to have:
  1. A first aid kit for your classroom in addition to a program wide kit--I am not going to the main office for a bandaid for an invisible boo boo on little Jeremy's finger.
  2. A personal emergency/beauty bag:  headache medication (for rhymthn stick days), allergy/cold meds, cough drops, toothbrush/paste, deoderant, hair ties, hair brush, mirror, feminine needs. nail file, lip gloss/chap stick, etc.
  3. A lotion that takes you to your happy place--your hands will be so dry from all the washing and sanitizing!
  4. Baby wipes--works wonders for stain removal and for removing crusty snot from preschoolers noses.
  5. Extra underwear and clothes in children's sizes--garage sale finds and clothes left over from previous kiddos work well here.
  6. Teacher's smock/apron--don't say I didn't warn you!
  7. A stash of extra kleenex and toilet paper--I'm not saying you will run out and have to use construction paper...but you will run out!
  8. A camera and a fully charged battery!
  9. Disposable combs/brushes and hair ties or barrettes...for the kids!
  10. Cheap toothbrushes and kid's toothpaste--in case someone gets sick or they need a quick brush--either they keep or toss the brush.
  11. Extra shoes for walks and rainy days...Mr. Roger had the right idea when he changed his shoes.
  12. Sweater, sweatshirt or jacket for when it gets cool outside or chilly at naptime.
  13. A stuffed animal or pillow for a child who may have had a rough night.
  14. A spot for your things--it will make you feel more at home.
  15. Two days of emergency lesson plans or backup activities--great for a substitute or when the current days plans don't go well.
  16. A teacher's seat, stool, bench, rocking chair...we all need our own spot...and kids think it is extra cool to be able to sit in our spot.
  17. A pretty picture or fake floral arrangement to brighten your day!
  18. A class photo with all the kiddos in it...this may change frequently!
  19. An emergency stash of chocolate for the teacher...enough said.
  20. An emergency stash of Smarties or gummies for the will thank me later!
  21. Bag or box of rainy day games, puzzles...special things that are not out all the time.  This is when a bag of jacks comes in handy!
  22. Writing instruments and post its placed strategically around the room for jotting down observations or for reminder just have to remember where you put all the notes.
  23. A notebook to jot down funny comments from children--we all could write a book someday!
  24. Creative storage space. 
  25. Patience, eyes in the back of your head, four sets of hands, and a lot of love!