I’m not a babysitter. I’m a preschool teacher. Parents and – let’s be honest with ourselves – anyone outside of the early childhood profession confuse the two.
To respect each one’s profession, allow me to lay the foundation.
I, serving as a preschool teacher, teach according to a set of California standards. I assess a child’s cognitive development, language development, social-emotional development, and physical development (aka ESI-P, ESI-K, ASQ-SE). Three times a year, I give parents a “report card” so they know how their child is doing (aka the DRDP-PS). I must attend 105 hours of professional development – outside of working hours – to retain my teaching permit. I document my student’s growth in notebooks, pictures, sketches and collected work. I lesson plan, long-term plan, and have the big goal in mind that my students will be academically, socially, and emotionally prepared for Kindergarten.
In the words of Amy Poehler: Bam! That’s a snippet of what I do. And, as a teacher, I have this grotesquely grand vision of my students serving the greater good in this world. I know. Bet you never heard of that one before? And the grand vision I have for my students are summarized in three statements…
- We Are Good
- We Are Nice
- We Learn All We Can
These are the three rules of my classroom. Simple, but way more complex than meets the eye. Allow me break it down further.
We Are Good
Not just “I want my students to be good.” That’s too vague. This means I want my students to be good when no one is looking (and don’t worry, I’m always supervising). When they see a toy on the ground, they clean it up: even if they didn’t play with it. If they see trash on the ground, they put it in the garbage. This is the kind of good where work hard because they know, when they go home and show their work, their families will be proud.
We Are Nice
I want my students to have a character of goodness inside of them. Being nice is an external expression of that internal goodness. When they see someone hurt, I want my students to have the audacity to approach the child and ask, “Are you all right.” If a child sneezes a huge boogie out of their nose, I should see at least two children charging toward one of the tissue boxes. And, if someone is crying, my students kneel down and rub the child’s back to help them feel better.
This is also the kind of nice where the children praise one another. When someone does something good in class, the rest of the students clap their hands in praise. When a child is finally able to write their name, my students give them a pat on the back. It’s all about being forward with unabashed kindness.
We Learn All We Can
My students enjoy learning. They learn that when you put one hand in blue paint, one hand in yellow paint, and put them together on paper, you get green. I want them excited when I sit in front of the class leading our weekly Show and Tell Event with Po, our panda puppet. I want my students to write their full name in the morning, every school day, for the entire school year. I want them to amaze in delight when we create an 8-foot bubble. Learning is fun.
And learning is no just academics, but those oh-so important social-emotional skills as well. I want them to develop their impulse control and turn-taking abilities. I want them to share their space and toys. I want them to learn how to work alone and with other children. I want them to know that it is dangerous to cross the street when cars are speeding past.
Each one of these rules not only applies to how I want my students conduct themselves in my classroom, but also how I conduct myself in the classroom. That’s right: I also follow the same rules. Nothing is more humbling than getting owned by a three year old because you crowded in line. But it’s true. I’m not above the rules. If I want my students to follow the rules, I must lead by example.
For me, they go something like this…
I Am Good
I will carry myself in a way that I am always in the classroom, and not absent. I take care of myself: going to sleep on time, eating a healthy diet, and exercising.
I Am Nice
I will respect each of my students, families and surrounding communities. I respect cultural and language differences by working on my language abilities. Furthermore, I respect my staff and the knowledge and experiences they bring to the classroom, to the school and to the program.
I Learn All I Can
I will continue to improve my education and knowledge of early childhood education. I attend workshops and professional development seminars. I acquire literature and curriculum so that I can rigorously challenge my students academically and develop their character. In turn, I offer my experiences to other educators to form a network where we share teaching techniques and best practices…
…and, when you try and form a network, you take a leap of faith…
…and start a blog.