Congrats and welcome to teaching preschool! 🎉
You are now a scientist, magician, teacher, and most of all — a superhero.
Going into your first year of teaching can feel a bit like trying to assemble an actual magic school bus. There are so many pieces that are going to eventually fall into place in ways you can’t quite anticipate.
Luckily, we have quite a few tips to help new preschool teachers make their first year an awesome experience.
If you grew up watching The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle taught you all about nocturnal animals, space, rainbows and even dinosaurs. It’s probably been years since you’ve heard her name, but Ms. Frizzle still has so much to teach us about early childhood education.
So come and check out what we can learn from the one and only Frizz. Buckle up, and get on the bus!
As a first-year preschool teacher, the first thing you need to know is this:
All of the pinterest classroom decor threads in the world cannot prepare you for what’s about to happen.
No matter how prepared you think you are for your first year of teaching, just know, no one starts out perfectly.
There are going to be elements of preschool teaching you just can’t learn until you’re actually faced with them.
We won’t dive into the pandemic too much here, but one in four teachers reported considering quitting their jobs this past year. Fact is, the world of early childhood education (ECE) may look a lot different now than when you first decided to enter the field.
Many preschool teachers are still figuring out how to manage the curve balls these past years have thrown into the mix, and we’re definitely seeing new teachers taking a hit with job satisfaction scores.
But with the right tools and mindset, this can still be the career you’ve always dreamed of.
Set your boundaries early: We all know the feeling of wanting to go above and beyond on the first day of a new job, but this is a really important time for establishing realistic expectations in your new role. It’s a lot easier starting a job with strict boundaries in place than trying to reestablish them months later when you’re burnt out and covered in glitter.
Ditch the apologies: We know we’re constantly teaching kids to apologize when it’s time to own up, but here’s the deal: We’ve all had to learn and adjust to changes in ECE on the go. Mistakes are going to get made, and as Ms. Frizzle says, “It’s the best way to learn something.” Try practicing positive ways to discuss challenges that don’t involve blame.
Invest in your mental health: Yes, even Ms. Frizzle gets frazzled. As a preschool teacher, there are going to be days where you feel like you’re floating through space. Be sure to have a mental health action plan for when things get tough. Know that mental health days are just as important to utilize as sick days, especially when working with kids.
Sure, we rarely see Ms. Frizzle speak openly with parents about exactly where she brought their children on a given day. 🤷
That said, a lot of families took a hard hit this year. Connecting with parents has never been more important in early childhood education.
As a first-year teacher, you may find students and parents struggling a bit more with starting school than you anticipated.
Parents may be second-guessing if their child is ready for school, and kids may have had fewer social and emotional interactions with peers and adults outside of their parents, causing a bit more separation anxiety than you may be used to.
Psst! Need a hand getting your social and emotional learning skills up to snuff? Check out our interview on Problem-Solving in the Real World with ECE Insider David Adams!
Create routines: Drop offs and pickups are a crucial time in the day. Having a solid structure that encourages positive interactions during drop offs and pick ups can help build confidence in both parents and kids.
Communicate often: Whether you’re sending out a class-wide email on sanitation guidelines, or a personalized email to a parent — communication is key. Coming up with a clear parent communication process sooner rather than later will save you many a headache down the road.
Share progress: Between kids being in and out of school, and parents juggling work and child care, developmentally appropriate milestones are top of mind for many parents. Regular reminders of what age appropriate milestones actually look like, and celebrating when a child succeeds, will bring a magnitude of relief to families who struggle to balance it all.
It’s unclear who’s decision it was to have a child in charge of driving a 13-ton school bus through another student’s digestive track, but let’s maybe not take this one literally.
At the end of the day, every new preschool teacher has a little Ms. Frizzle in them and no matter how wild or wacky, having an engaging curriculum is an important part of helping children succeed.
But it’s also important to evolve preschool standards year-round, balance the curriculum and just let kids be kids. If you’re new to ECE, but have taught older children, balancing play is especially important to consider.
Ms. Frizzle is, really, a bit too good at letting students figure things out on their own. Honestly, she maybe is borderline irresponsible leaving kids stranded on a bus in outer space while she goes to find ice cream on Mars, but hey, kids are resilient. They always find solutions. 🚀
Encourage questions: Kids have a ton of questions, especially in preschool. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why don’t dogs wear shoes?” “Why are people on TV so small?” As Ms. Frizz would say, “If you keep asking questions, you’ll keep getting answers.” If you develop a curriculum around their natural interests, you’ll have a more engaged class.
Don’t always give them a solution: If a newly-potty trained 3-year-old comes running up asking if they can use the bathroom, of course you want to offer a solution (and quickly). But as long as it’s not urgent, why not give kids a chance to discover answers on their own?
As a new preschool teacher, your days should be spent on finding the magic in learning.
Early learning is a child’s first introduction to school, and your engagement with each one has an impact on their relationship with education for the rest of their lives.
You don’t want to spend your days stuck behind your desk dealing with outdated systems and processes. Keep your mind free of admin work, and enjoy connecting with the kiddos!
Food allergy monitoring: Holy cow, that’s a lot of kids to feed. Jamie only likes PB&Js, Jeremy will only eat the left half of a hot dog, and David is allergic to shellfish. Kids are so picky, and it can be tricky for educators to remember if a child has an allergy to a certain food, or just prefers not to eat it. When it comes to food allergies, you don’t want to get it wrong in the classroom. Find a simple, visual child care app to track food allergies and medication management all in one place.
Keep parents informed: Sending photos of children via an unsecured communication method can be dangerous. And honestly, it’s never a great idea to be sending information about students, billing, etc. back and forth via email, where security settings are iffy at best. See if your center offers a secure parent portal to help keep parent communication safe and consistent.
Manage your curriculum: Being able to design a curriculum and share it with directors all in one place will save you so much time. Find a good program or system to help speed up the process of developing and sharing your lesson plans, so you have more time to spend with the kids.
At the end of the day, teaching preschool isn’t always going to be sunshine and light refractions creating a colorful display (thanks, Ms. Frizz 🌈).
Some days are going to be tough.
Early childhood education is in the middle of a transformative shift, and you are definitely entering the scene at an interesting point in history.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is to try and find the small wins that make day-to-day life as a first-year teacher just that little bit easier.
At MomentPath, we created a child care management system designed specifically to help early childhood educators get back to doing what they do best — teaching. Because on its best days, the world of ECE is all about bringing out the Ms. Frizzle in all of us.
Now get out there and have a great first year!