I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.
Now you all have a glimpse into my brain today. After years of working with infants and one-year old’s in the classroom, and just recently (2 months ago) moving into a preschool classroom (as an assistant), I am now a lead junior preschool teacher.
I already do the “preschool” thing at home with my own littles, but that is completely different. At work, I have 16 three-year-old’s, and the structure must be followed a little more closely. At work, other parents are relying on me to take care of and to teach their kids. These parents are putting their most precious being into my care and trusting me to not mess up. I’m not worried about not being able to take care of them, don’t get me wrong. What I worry about is not being as good as the last teacher, or not earning the kids’ respect, or not living up to the parents’ expectations. It all sounds like such an easy concept, but it’s not.
I have a couple of littles in my class who are difficult. They’re cute and sweet and I love them, but they test my patients more than the others and they struggle a little more with following the rules with the others. They don’t want to listen, don’t want to do what the rest of the class is doing, and want to get attention in whatever way possible. They hit, kick, scream, spit… you name it, they do it. So what do I do now?
When I found out that I was going to be the new lead teacher, these behavior issues were the first thing I thought of. My goal is to figure these kids out, individually. I need to figure out what works for them and what will help them begin to respect me and our classroom. While I work on that, though, there were some immediate changes that needed to happen. Structure, for one. Our classroom lacked structure. Sure, we had a schedule we were supposed to follow, but transitions and nap time were just not going well and there was no plan in place to make them better. As the lead, I now have the authority to change that.
Today, for instance, while the kids were using the restroom and washing their hands before lunch and my assistant and I were laying out cots for nap time, I put a stack of books on each table and told the kids to sit and read quietly while we all got ready. Normally, in the past, the kids would run around the room, jump on cots, throw toys around and scream and yell while this part of the day was happening. I couldn’t have that anymore. Day number one of the new plan was far from perfect. I still had kids who wanted to do things the old way, of course, but I just kept reminding them of the new plan and the new rule and guiding them back to a seat before continuing with the cots. It took so much patience and a few of the kids never stayed seated for more than one minute at a time. That’s okay. It was day number one, after all. No one can expect kids to learn a new routine the very first day. The key is to stick to it, continue it every single day, and eventually the kids will become used to it and know what needs to be done. I did have a handful of kids who completely accepted the change and sat wonderfully during the whole process. That was so reassuring to me. It allowed me to see that these kids are capable of being successful with the new plan and with some of them already following the plan, it will only lead other children to do the same.
My next plan is to work on other transitions and a better nap time routine. I only want to introduce one new idea at a time. Little minds can be overwhelmed so quickly, and I’d hate to cause regression by changing too much at once.
It is going to take time for me to become 100% comfortable with this new career position, but I am so excited. I can’t wait to see how these children grow and learn in my care and what positive changes I can make in our classroom.
Whenever I doubt myself or start to silently panic that things aren’t going as planned, I just repeat over and over again in my head, “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this”. I wonder when I’ll be able to stop repeating that to myself? Week number 2, month number 2, year number 2? We shall see. J
Any preschool teachers out there who have any advice for this newbie?! Even mamas with difficult littles, what do you do to encourage them to follow directions and make good choices?! All advice is welcome!