After having just one of those days, I realize that sometimes those are the days that are the most valuable.
For my first class of preschoolers I got lucky and I have a wonderful group of 14 kids that for the most part have been a dream. Through the first month of school I was floating on air because of how smoothly things were going and I counted my lucky stars that I felt so comfortable and happy with my class. Of course, like in any preschool classroom, we have now had our share of crazy, stressful, totally overwhelming days. As the kids have gotten more comfortable with me and their peers we have really gotten down to the nitty-gritty stuff.
After just having come back from a break, the kids were happy to see each other on Monday, and some have totally melted down by Wednesday. It’s hard to go from spending days with your family to a room full of 14 preschoolers where the energy level is almost always on high. There are kids with busy parents, parents expecting babies, siblings that have recently arrived, and other major life changes going on. Life is really hard for a preschooler who knows that something big is about to happen, and as adults who have learned through practice how to deal with these things it’s easy to forget.
With all that said, today was one of those days. Crazy and loud, full of crying, running, ear-splitting volume and a lot of really awesome experiences. We took the bus to campus (we are affiliated with the local university, so we have access to a wonderful campus with lots of things to do) and brought a bin of Duplo LEGOS with us to represent some of the buildings that are located there. The kids made some amazing things and also enjoyed running around in the grass before it got too cold and we headed back to the bus. Transitioning into and out of these big trips is always hard, but today it just seemed extra chaotic. The afternoon was along the same lines, and there was one child who had just had a really hard time all day long. Their behaviors challenged me throughout the day and it doesn’t feel good when you feel like you’re on a kids case all day long.
It was one of those times where you don’t realize how stressed you are until you step out of teacher mode at the end of the day. With parent conferences looming, which includes relatively intensive portfolios and scheduled time out of the classroom, feeling like I didn’t do my best in dealing with behaviors all day, and still having to stay on top of daily planning it was enough to have a teary drive home from work. If you ask my fiance I cry about “everything”, but it was just a lot of small things added up that left me a mess on my commute. As I drove to the other side of town, I had a moment to reflect on why the day had left me so upset.
I hold myself to high standards and when I don’t feel like I’m doing my very best it’s hard for me not to beat up on myself. Now that I’m in the position to be a mentor to others I feel like I always need to be doing the right thing to set a good example for my staff. But even though this keeps me accountable it’s a double-edged sword because it makes me hate when I feel like I’m not doing a good job. Days like today, though, help me to appreciate these times as a learning experience rather than just a time where I could have done better. Rather than dwelling on behavior that is causing problems in the classroom, I was able to step back and think about what is really going on with that particular child and find some more constructive ways to deal with it with the help of my wonderful bosses who are always there to lend suggestions when I need them.
In the day-to-day bustle, it’s really easy to get stuck in just saying “please stop doing that” or “you need to keep your hands to yourself”, when really kids don’t take much stock in that. As adults we certainly don’t like people telling us to stop doing something without a good reason, so I don’t know why adults always seem to be doing this to kids. One thing that I really love about where I work is that behavior is never viewed as just a problem to be dealt with and something that is punishable, but instead is looked at a signal to us that something is bothering or challenging a child. All they need is support and assistance from us to be able to better deal with what’s going on.
Although sometimes these days seem so tiring and overwhelming, I’m glad that I have them. They make me think a little deeper about my practices and seek solutions that may have otherwise not been as obvious to me. These days really make me appreciate the days that are filled with nothing but fun, easy-going time together. As a first year teacher just a few months into it all, it’s been a lot to soak in and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with everything that I’m learning. I don’t like learning through mistakes, but those are the times that I’ve grown the most as a teacher.
Even on the rough days, though, I really wouldn’t trade it for anything!