I’m an elementary education major, and was thrilled last February when I got a job at a preschool. Not only was it my first actual paying job, but it would also give me great experience to put on my résumé in a few years when I’ll be applying for teaching positions. I picked up more hours in the summer, and learned some important lessons along the way.
1: Leave your dignity at the door
You know that calm and cool attitude we all use to hide our quirkiness that we’ve perfected by college? Leave that at home! From going to Bear Hunts like Dora the Explorer to eating food from the three-year-olds’ finest restaurant, you can just forget about looking cool. This was really tough for me initially. I’m an easily embarrassed person, and always worry how I come across to people; but while working with the kids, I learned that the more you embarrass yourself, the more fun they have. Talking in a funny accent and mooing like a cow? Gold! Running through rivers from terrifying bears? You will be their first choice for a playmate! Losing your inhibitions and focusing on the kids’ having fun goes a long way with everyone; parents, coworkers, and bosses included!
2: Patience is a virtue
I’m sure that we’ve all heard this age-old phrase, but in preschool nothing could be truer. Kids make mistakes. They don’t understand things the first time you explain them, and they always find new ways to make messes. You have to be prepared to give directions multiple times and to answer a plethora of redundant questions.
Remember the T.V. show where Bill Cosby asked kids questions about life, and we all laughed at their hysterical answers? My favorites from this summer are “I’m not going to cry because…I’m going to be a spy,” “When I get older, I’m going to have a sword, and it’s going to be this big,” and “When I grow up, I’m going to be a ninja turtle.” Kids have overactive imaginations, just go with it
If there’s one thing that I have learned from spending the summer months on the playground, it’s that I’m incredibly out of shape. Seriously, I should not be winded from playing tag with preschoolers! Even if you’re tired, keep pluggin’ along and you’ll be the kids’ favorite person.
5: Forgive and Forget
I was worried about disciplining the kids. I didn’t want to lose my “nicest teacher status,” but there were times when I had to be firm. I learned that kids forgive and forget in a matter of minutes. After making someone sit during playtime for talking during naptime, I thought that he would hate me. To my surprise, right after he was free to play, he ran over asking, “Ms. Melissa, can you catch me?” Kids don’t get bent out of shape when you discipline them. They know you’re in charge, and when their punishment is over, you’re no longer the bad guy. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t harp over what happened. They let it go; you should too.
Although I worked a lot this summer, and there were days when the kids wouldn’t listen and I wanted to rip out my hair, what I really learned from this job was how much I want to be a teacher. All the frustration melts away when a little girl says, “I missed you when I was down the beach!” I love my job! I’m incredibly lucky to have gotten it. I’m certain that I learned more from the kids than they learned from me.