Monday, September 5, 2016

Why I Teach + Common Preschool Questions

I have been in the classroom with my students for a full week and am so relieved that I was back in 'Teacher Whitney' mode instantly. I actually started this blog with the intention of only sharing Preschool activities, to inspire early learning so it tickled me when two blog friends didn't know I was a Preschool teacher! 

So I figured I would take this opportunity to share WHY I teach and to answer some commonly asked questions about Preschool.

I knew from a young age I wanted to work with children. My first thought was to be a child psychologist. That passed pretty quickly though because I would probably cry and that's unprofessional and I would have adopted all the kids.

Then one day as I was working at Gap, my friend Jennifer said, "you should be a preschool teacher!" and called out my destiny. I enrolled in ECE (Early Childhood Education) classes at the local Junior College and got a job at a half day preschool.

I was in heaven!

There is something very special about being surrounded by young children. They have an innocence and joy that is not found anywhere else. Their sense of justice is strong and so is their will. They play hard, love hard and have unending energy.

I get "you're a saint!" a lot but I don't think of teaching as work (though it very much is and takes a lot of energy. I'm pretty much dead at the end of the day) so much as a calling. When you teach children it's because you have a desire to do so.

And let me add, children always find you/seek you out! Where ever I go, be it the store or at a restaurant, I always end up making friends with some random kid!

I teach Preschool to validate young children, share ideas and foster social- emotional development, nurture creativity and guide learning. I learn from my students too! This year marks my decade foray in teaching Preschool but my 8th in my own classroom and it is still very much a part of who I am.

Common Preschool Questions:
I asked my favorite blog friends if they had any questions about Preschool and here is what came up:

Jess from Scott Family of Maine:
Q: Will they learn what they need to know for Kindergarten screening? I'm (already) so nervous that Cam won't be prepared!

A: So I was nervous too but Kinsey's [Kindergarten screening] only lasted like 10 minutes IF that and she told me she had to identify shapes, colors and some letters and numbers. I think the parents who worry are the ones who's children are prepared ;)

Jen from And Hattie Makes Three:
Q: What do they do all day!?! All I ever get from Hattie is she did ABC's and ate goldfish!

A: Each teacher is going to have their own ways to teach but really we all incorporate letters, numbers, colors and shapes. But there's also the "extracurricular" things like social-emotional development, large and small motor development and self-regulation that isn't so much taught but refined throughout the year. Play is still the most important teacher at this age so it may seem like there's a lot of time dedicated to say, blocks but when playing with those blocks kids are exposed to math (fitting blocks together), spatial awareness, science (gravity at work!) and again, social cooperation when building with a friend; we take play very seriously in Preschool.

Leah from Leah with Love:
Q: What can the parent do at home to help prepare their littles for Kindergarten or what will they be expected to know in Kindergarten?

A: I think this is a "toughie" since each State varies on what is expected but a general knowledge of the alphabet (identifying some if not all letters, knowing sounds, and writing/spelling name) numbers 1-20 if not more, identify shapes and colors. Social- emotional development is one of the things I focus on besides academics and it's amazing how much kids grow emotionally over a year!

Jess from Being Mrs Beer:
Q: Maybe some tips for working parents on how to start preparing them for Kindergarten using only weekends? Our weekdays are so busy that I don't think we'd have time during the week, and Abbie will not be going to a structured preschool because everyone I've found is more expensive than her daycare for the hours we'd need! I'd love to know how to start getting her ready even though she won't go to Kindergarten for another 2 years because of her birthday.

A: Does she like doing workbooks? They aren't necessarily the only way to learn but some kids really like them! Just reading stories together is so beneficial. Playing games like bingo is a fun way to learn. Again, I think the parents who are concerned that their kids aren't ready are already ahead!

Sarah from Seeing All Sides:
Q: What should they be leaning in Preschool? I was surprised by Brantley's curriculum last year--units like "apples" instead of things I felt like he should be learning (letters, how to write his name, etc.). And maybe that's the difference between 3- and 4-year old Preschool. Perhaps he'll learn more kindergarten-prep this year...

A: Well, in his Apples unit he was exposed to letters, literacy (reading books about apples) math (counting apples), science (how do apples grow?) but the best way for littles to learn is through play so preschool looks a lot different than Kindergarten as there are no desks and no homework.

Sarah: Good to know!! I guess, as a high school teacher, I have an entirely different perspective and it's easy to overlook all of the things he was learning!!

Me: it's definitely a different pace in preschool! But even the small things really do teach big lessons.

Sara from Running From the Law:
Q: My biggest concern right now is how will I know at the end of the year whether or not he's ready (physically and emotionally) for kindergarten. What kind of guidance do teachers give parents about whether to move them into kindergarten or whether to hold them back? Personally for us, I know Mac's smart but he is a very physical kid and has a very hard time sitting still, paying attention, concentrating on one thing, etc. Is this something that they work on? Is this something that can be taught or is it something that just comes with time?

A: This is definitely a parent judgement call- if he is academically ready I would definitely consider putting him in Kindergarten. Attention span is something that is developed and even if he is more physically active he will get a chance to burn off that energy during recess and P.E. Have you shared your concerns with his teacher? What do they recommend? I will say boys are just more hyper by design but doesn't mean they aren't capable of sitting still. Does your state have Transitional Kindergarten? Its relatively new in Ca but its for kids whose birthday falls after the regular Kinder cut- off date but who will turn 5 by December; its an academic setting but catered for the younger child. I don't think Mac falls in that category though, huh? And Ill add, most kids act differently around the teacher than the parent so he could be a model student and you would never be the wiser ;)

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments! Ill try my hardest to answer :)

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  1. We still have 2 years before C goes to Kindergarten and because it's important to use for him to be prepared and have the confidence he needs to join his classmates without fear, we sent him to preschool. Because of his birthday, he will have 2 years of preschool and a year of PreK. I feel like 3 years of school before Kindergarten may seem like a lot but he loves it. He doesn't even notice the learning aspect as much as the fun he gets to have with friends.

  2. I often think I'd like to be a preschool teacher if I ever go back to work. Kids are so special at that age and I love the idea of teaching through play. We've had such an amazing experience with Noah in preschool, and he still has 2 more years (he's on the older side because of the cutoff, just like Connor).

  3. Preschool is the best thing that has happened to Cam. He used to be so attached to me, quiet, and shy. You'd never know that if you met him today. He's so confidant, outgoing and friendly. We are debating whether Cam will go to kindergarten next year or do a year of preK at his preschool based on when his birthday is. His teachers are amazing and what he learns is great and what I think he should be.

  4. Love this. Getting a teachers perspective is always so helpful and I totally agree. Usually the parents who are concerned about kids being ready for K, don't have anything to worry about.

  5. I love this so much. Especially tonight as I'm unwinding for the day & trying not to stress about the morning, which will be here all to fast. As a former preschool / daycare teacher myself, I really loved this post!

  6. You're a saint for being a preschool teacher, and I mean that with all sincerity. It takes a special person to do that job and do it well.
    T-K is so new for me, and I hear parents talk about it all the time. Like, WHAT is it? It sounds just like kinder, but with a fancy name for those not quite old enough for the actual title of kindergartener.

  7. How fun that you get to teach preschool?! I love this questions and answers post. We still have two years until kindergarten but I'm already nervous! Odette is starting her very first preschool class next week though and I know she will love it :)

    1. Yay!! Odette will have so much fun!! Good luck to both of you, that first time apart is gut-wrenching.

  8. I hope Aria has a teacher like you! I hear scary stories about teachers and students that don't mesh and it sounds just awful. Older kids, not so much preschool. But, with the right teacher I think Aria will love going to school. She loves adults lol.

  9. I love that you’re a preschool teacher, fits you perfectly. And I know without a doubt that you are one of the best. The kids must love you!!! I love the Q&A and getting more insight to Preschool! We were truly blessed by our Pre-K facility! Mason went to a private Prek and they taught him everything he would learn the first 9-12 weeks of Kindergarten. He went in ahead of the curve.

  10. Great questions and answers! These are all the same questions I had!

  11. Love this post!!! I think we probably all remember elementary school so there aren't as many questions, but I love these Q&As about preschool! And because it can vary so much from preschool to preschool (and state to state), it's nice to get a teacher's perspective! Thanks, Whitney!

  12. So fun with the Q&A. People say similar things about teaching middle school... that I'm a saint, but I just love the age.

  13. You are amazing!!! I'm so glad that you got to go back to work this year and really live your calling. I love that you say that it is more of an honor than a job. Those kind of teachers are what we need more of! Your students are truly lucky to have you. I wish Mason could be in your class!

  14. Girl, you really are a saint! ONE three year old overwhelms me sometimes. I can’t imagine a classroom full of them!! I’ve read a bunch of your preschool oriented posts in the past and they were all fantastic - you must be an amazing teacher! I have a question for you. At what point should a child be able to identify all letters of the alphabet? And what can I do to help her learn to identify them?

  15. Until recently I didn't know you were a preschool teacher either! :) I love all of these questions, all of which came up recently as Baby Fox was headed to Kinder this year.

  16. Great Q&A! I haven't thought about any of this, so lots of food for thought here.


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