Currently, I am doing some part-time substitute teaching in a preschool classroom, which is a fairly new experience for me. Though I was a teacher once upon a time, I worked with high school and middle school students. So we are talking about pretty much the entire opposite end of the spectrum here. I always used to think I didn’t I have the special kind of patience required to be a preschool teacher. Older kids don’t need the same type of refined discipline and meticulously crafted rules as the little guys. I mean, that attention to detail is exhausting.
Yet now that I find myself in a preschool class a few days a week, I will admit I’m kind of loving it. Maybe being a mother has imbibed me with those particular survival skills I didn’t have during my earlier teaching days. Or maybe the fact that I know this is a temporary gig makes it easier for me to be charmed by the preschool life…similar to the way people make the argument that being a grandparent is better than being a parent. You get to eventually give them back to the person who is actually responsible for them: their real preschool teacher.
Aside from getting my fill of adorable faces and stories with no point, I have also come to understand what an exceptional breed of person it takes to willingly spend five days a week being outnumbered by three- and four-year-olds. She is an unsung heroine in many ways, but here are the top five reasons you should hug your child’s preschool teacher without abandon next time you see her:
#1 Shoelaces (a.k.a. podiatric serpents of evil)
I have calculated that the average preschool teacher spends roughly one-fourth of her day tying shoelaces. She is constantly saving your children from potential tumbles, head traumas, missing teeth, skinned knees, and split chins all at the expense of her lower back and knees. And have you ever looked closely at a child’s shoes? They are disgusting, given the fact that kids don’t give a crap what they step in…crap included.
#2 Speaking of crap…
Potty accidents. Yes, they still happen in kids who are toilet-trained. And cleaning up after a four-year-old isn’t quite the same as doing so with a one-year-old. I’d venture to say it’s more like what you’d find in a nursing home instead of a nursery. Consequently, I would bet a prerequisite for preschool teachers is a virtually non-existent gag reflex. There’s just no way they could survive otherwise.
#3 Preschool teachers are basically doctors in an Ebola ward
Being in a preschool classroom is like walking into a CDC containment unit without a hazmat suit. You know it’s full of just about every germ out there, so it’s just a matter of time before at least half of them take up residence in your body. There is always a coughing kid, a snotty kid, a rashy kid, a pukey kid, a fevery kid…you name it, someone’s got it. But like a modern day Florence Nightingale, the preschool teacher returns to the battlefield of early childhood education no matter how horrific the conditions.
#4 Monthly Scholastic Book Orders
I mean sure, we all love books (Hello? Children’s author here. I want you to buy all the books. Especially mine.). But you have to admit you kind of feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day when those flimsy flyers seem to be in your kid’s backpack every time you open it. As a parent, you have the free will to simply throw them in the recycle bin if you aren’t in need of another Oh, David book. But the preschool teacher doesn’t have that luxury. First, she has to separate each flyer from a gigantic book (and do this x5, because there’s never just one type of Scholastic flyer…there’s the pre-Kindergarten flyer, the Early Reader flyer, the For Kids Who Are Three and a Half flyer, the I Look Little But I’m Advanced for My Age flyer…you get the picture). Then she must make sure one (or five) goes in every backpack, collect all orders by the due date, check for online orders, enter the orders, and eventually distribute piles of paperbacks. All this in the hopes that she’ll earn enough to get a few free books for her classroom. And just when she can finally cross that off her to-do list, there is a whole new stack of flyers waiting in her mailbox. So basically, Scholastic is like laundry for teachers.
#5 Every day is like the Tattle-Telling World Championship
For reals. God love preschoolers, but they just don’t understand shades of seriousness. In their minds, pulling a switchblade and butting in line are pretty much equal offenses and deserving of whistle-blowing. I can barely stand it when my OWN kids, for whom I would die a death by fire ants, tattle. So when kids not birthed from my loins tattle? Ugh. It’s pretty much akin to that whole death by fire ants, but worse because my sacrifice is for naught. Yet somehow, the preschool teacher can endure this torture day after day, and shake it off as if it were a mere mosquito bite.
Combine these reasons with the pittance we pay our preschool teachers, and it’s a wonder there are so many dedicated and hard-working people choosing this career. Yet they do it for the same reason we parents keep plugging through sleepless nights, temper tantrums, and food battles: they love our children. And that’s pretty amazing…because they don’t have to.
So go on. Give your child’s preschool teacher a hug today, because she’s probably already given a few to your untied-shoe-wearing, poopy smelling, boogery, whining-about-Josh-W-touching-his-crayon kid.
Oh, and don’t forget: Scholastic book orders are due on Friday.
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