Tag Archives: professionalism

Can You Really “Teach” Preschool?

preschool-teachersMany years ago, my husband was having a conversation with a co-worker. They were getting to know each other, and were discussing each of their families’ dynamics. The topic of what their wives did for a living came up.

At the time, I was a lead teacher in a preschool classroom, and coincidentally, so was this co-worker’s wife, at another program. “My wife’s a preschool teacher,” my husband said. “She loves it, and she’s pretty good at it.” “Mine too,” the co-worker said. “But then again, can you really TEACH preschool?” He put air quotes around the word “teach,” and finished his statement off with a condescending smirk and a laugh.

Now, I was not witness to this actual conversation, only to the description of it my husband gave me later on. Considering my passion for quality early childhood education, it’s probably a very good thing (for my husband’s former co-worker, at least) that I wasn’t! But it got me thinking—just how is our profession viewed by the rest of the adult world?

I have always been proud of what I do for a living, knowing that working with children between the ages of birth and 5 years is some of the most important work there is. But as my career has progressed I have witnessed the reaction I get from others when they find out for the first time what I do for a living. Sometimes I get, “How do you do it?! I could NEVER be around little kids all day!” Other times it’s, “Oh, that sounds like so much fun! I wish I could color all day and get paid for it!” And then there are the times when I actually get the brush off. I have witnessed people’s facial expressions and body language change noticeably in ways that indicate they have very little, if any respect, for what an early childhood educator’s job entails. And therefore, for me.

Those of you who have been doing this for any length of time know just what I’m talking about. In fact, recently I came across a video of an interview with a fellow preschool teacher who put it this way… “When I’m in a room and I’m asked what I do, I just say ‘teacher.’ Because if I say ‘preschool teacher,’ then all of a sudden I’m less intelligent because, clearly, I’m just a babysitter. And they have no clue how important my job is.”

Even though the concept of early childhood education has been around since the early 1800’s, and numerous child development theorists such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, and Maria Montessori, just to name a few, have developed well-respected, foundational ideas about the science of how young children learn, the reality is that the job of educating and caring for young children is often still viewed in a somewhat simplistic light. Even the terms people frequently use to refer to this field are often thrown around without a second thought to the negative connotation they may present. This article from the Huffington Post is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

Whatever your role is in the field of early childhood, you matter. The children you work with everyday need you. They look forward to seeing your face smiling back at them, to hearing a word of encouragement or support coming from your lips, to feeling the touch of your hand on their back when they’re struggling with accomplishing a task. Keep showing up. Keep doing what you do. Keep loving it. The adults may not always get it… but the children always will.

7 Ways to Manage Stress at Work

The holidays create all kinds of stress, and it can carry over into your work and, inevitably, into your interactions with children, coworkers and families. Here are 7 ways you can manage stress at work.

1. First and foremost, know what is stressing you. Make a list of your stressors. Identify those you have no control over and try your hardest to let them go. Identify those you can control & work on them.

2. One way to help the stressors you can control is to ask for help! I have a friend, Katie, who works at a child care center and is a live-in caretaker for her parents in poor health. Recently, Katie’s mother was admitted to the hospital. Katie spent a lot of time at her mother’s bedside to support and comfort her and eventually her mother pulled through. As a result, Katie got behind in her lesson plans and felt overwhelmed.

When my mother passed away, I took only enough time off from my two jobs for the wake and funeral. I was back to work the next day. I didn’t ask for help. I thought I could handle it by myself. I didn’t want to see Katie make the same mistake I did, so I suggested that she ask her coworkers and director for help and that they would understand. You are not a superhuman. It’s ok to admit when you need a little help.

3. If the stressors get to be too much, take a quick break. My sister takes her lunch out to the car at work and eats it there. She makes an effort to create a separation between work time and HER time, even if it’s just to eat and listen to the radio for 15 minutes.

4. Speaking of eating, make sure you’re not stress-eating. Ask yourself: am I eating because I’m hungry or because I’m stressed? If it isn’t because you’re hungry, don’t eat it, or chew some gum. Also, stop eating before you get full and eat slowly.

5. Laugh. It’s so simple, and it works. I was asked this week to submit my workload to my supervisor for review. Between the 39 trainings I’m trained on (plus 8 more by the end of the year), the 33 trainings I did in the last six months and the 22 centers I’m actively working with, her response was: “What don’t you do?” I responded: “Sleep.” We both got a good laugh out of it.

6. While we’re on the subject, get enough sleep. Sleep is incredibly, incredibly important for managing stress, but don’t do it at work! Even though I joked about it, I do make sure to get 7-8 of sleep on average each night. There have been nights that stress has kept me awake, but I know that if I don’t get enough sleep, chances are I’m going to be extra stressed the next day.

7. Last, but not least, count your blessings—physically. Make a list like you did with your stressors, but of things that you are thankful for. I have done this several times when I’ve been really stressed. It truly helps put things into perspective. Each time I do it, the list gets longer.

Here’s a small sampling: I’m thankful to have a job that I enjoy; I’m thankful that I’m getting married; I’m thankful that my family and I are healthy; I’m thankful that I have an awesome dog; I’m thankful that I have such fabulous coworkers; I’m thankful that I am able to love myself, even with all my quirks (and I’ve got a lot of quirks)!

Do you have any other strategies you use to manage stress, or blessings of your own you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments.