Hold on….wait a minute…it’s coming…
Yep, there it is.
WWWAAAAHHHHHH!!!! What have I done??? I don’t want to teach first grade! I love teaching preschool! I just want to go back to MY classroom, and MY kids, and MY stuff…and now it all belongs to SOMEONE ELSE!!!!
Okay, deep breath…think rationally…talk it out…
Tantrum finished. Time for rational discussion.
I was reading The Daily 5, which is a trade book about a management and literacy “program” that our school uses during guided reading time. The more I read, the more I realize it’s mostly about management concepts, and those concepts are things that I have come to do without thinking in preschool.
For example, the authors describe how they moved from the mentality that students should be told or shown something once, and then understand and perform the expected behavior every day from then on. In developing The Daily 5, they now know that they need to demonstrate and practice the expected behavior over and over, until it is the students’ “default behavior,” and return to demonstrating and practicing whenever it becomes clear that the students’ aren’t defaulting to the expected behavior.
There are tons of things I have to learn about first grade, but that concept isn’t one of them. In my years of teaching preschool, modeling and practicing expected behavior for many days in a row became my “default teaching.”
And I already miss it!
That’s just one example of the things about preschool that I’m going to miss. But, once upon a time, I wanted this. I wanted a change, and I wanted to try something besides preschool. More than once upon a time, actually, but many times over the past four years.
The things I am already missing about teaching preschool:
-Working closely with the families, seeing them every morning and afternoon.
-Home visits. (Yes, you can think I’m crazy if you want!)
-Each preschool classroom was a unique situation–I was the only one with 3- and 4-year-olds all day. I could fly by the seat of my pants whenever I wanted or needed to, without diverging from any shared plan amongst the other classrooms. I had lots of freedom to follow the kids–if someone found a robin’s egg, we could spend the rest of the day learning about things that hatch out of eggs if we wanted to.
-Three-year-olds! I love that age! I struggle constantly with whether full-day preschool is AT ALL appropriate for a “glorified toddler,” and of course it depends on the child (and the alternative–if they weren’t in my classroom, what would they be doing?)…but I love to watch them change over the months, because there is so much change at that age!
-Fewer students = more time focusing on each one. If child A is ready to learn how to write the first letter of her name, and child B is ready to learn how to use commas and periods when writing a sentence, I have time to work with each of them.
-Art supplies. Never thought I’d say that! But I spent so many hours at the end of the year cleaning out and organizing the art supplies, and I wish I could go back and enjoy the fruits of all that work.
-My coteachers. I have had so much fun working with and getting to know the other teachers and paras on the preschool team, and I’m sad to not get to work with them every day anymore.
-My returners…they’re not “my” returners anymore!…but I left it unfinished, because half my class is, of course, not ready for kindergarten yet!
The reasons I want to switch to first grade:
-Lunch break, planning time, recess duty only one or two days a week. As much as I love teaching preschool, I was very, very close to feeling completely burned out at the end of last year. There is only so long a person can handle being “on duty” for 7 hours in a row, no break to be away from the task, no few minutes to return a phone call or an email, no time to just sit still and breathe for a moment. So often in preschool I was using Work Time (centers, students’ choice, you get the idea) to call the car mechanic, email a parent, use the restroom, have work-related conversations with other teachers, etc. Anything that absolutely couldn’t be done after 3:35, had to be done when I was “supposed to” be teaching. So there was not only a constant feeling of guilt over those little tasks that I needed to accomplish that day, or guilt over spending teaching time not teaching.
-Do I prefer preschool or an older grade? I’ll never know if I don’t try it. I liked student teaching 3rd grade better than preschool, but student teaching may not be the best yardstick for what I will enjoy in “real life.” And I loved my one semester teaching 2nd grade, but it was a whirlwind of being in over my head, and not enough time to judge. I know what I adore about preschool and what I despise. I need to experience another grade, to figure out what I adore and despise about that. Without different experiences, what I despised about preschool was turning into despising preschool in general, and idealizing other grade levels. And, unfortunately, it was really difficult to keep it from turning into bitterness toward other teachers. “What could they possibly have to complain about?” and all that.
-I adore the para I’ve been working with for the past four years. However, I feel the need to take a break from being responsible for a para. I’m looking foward to working with paras who are supervised and directed by the resource teachers, and are just in my classroom when their particular students are in my classroom. Just for something different for awhile.
-I miss teaching content! So much of preschool is about learning to wash hands and zip coats, learning to resolve conflict, learning to play games and sing songs…and it’s all important. But I miss teaching guided reading groups, science lessons, math concepts.
-As a K-6 teacher, these are the basic tasks: teach literacy, math, science, social studies, go home! Music, art, large motor skills…these are someone else’s responsibility. In that way, I feel like it’s a less impossible job. (Less impossible. Let’s face it…being a teacher is impossible. It’s a job where you never, ever get your list of tasks finished. You just turn to the next page, and start again. It’s something to be strived for, and likely never acheived. What in the world have I chosen as a career path???)
And then there are things I’m worried about for first grade, that have nothing to do with preschool:
-Thanks to the huge renovation starting this fall, another first grade teacher and I are sharing a classroom. I’m so intimidated to coteach with her. My first year in first grade, I’d rather make my mistakes behind a closed door.
-What do first grade teachers do on the first couple days of school???
-What students learn in preschool is important, but it’s all extra. There will always be kindergarteners who did not go to preschool and needed it, so my preschoolers will go on to kindergarten always more prepared than someone. First grade is mandatory. If they are not ready for second grade, it is all me. Accomplishing all the benchmarks is essential.
At this point, teaching first grade is a non-negotiable. I already made my decision, and I’ve been assigned. A new preschool teacher has been hired. If I do this for a year, or even a few years, and decide I liked preschool better, I can always request to be moved again. I can’t speculate on whether or not there will be an opening, but that’s the risk I take. I can’t imagine hating an older grade so much that I couldn’t enjoy it if I set out to enjoy it.
That last thought really sums it up…if I set out to enjoy it, I will. Enjoying something is not dependent upon the thing, it’s dependent upon me. There are parts of every job I can enjoy…in this case, the sure thing is the children. No matter how stressful or impossible the job turns out to be, I can enjoy getting to know the kids, bonding with them through the school year, turning a classroom and a group of children into a “family” of sorts. That’s always been my favorite thing about being a teacher, no matter how much I love or hate the other parts of the job. And, it might change a little when working with a different age group, but it doesn’t go away.
It’s funny…just a couple of days ago I was telling Sarah that I wasn’t having my usual “I don’t want to go back to school!” feelings that happen a couple weeks before I have to go back. I was happy…maybe finally I’m settled into the school-year schedule! Did I jinx it by telling her??? 🙂