My first year teaching Pre-K has come to an end (well, we have one more day left). Here are three lessons I’ve learned after 180 days with twenty-three four and five year-olds (not to mention my bonus child from the other Pre-K class).
Lesson 1: Mrs. Johnson is my “real name.”
I told my class my new last name was Johnson, but four and five-year-olds have very selective memories so to them I was still Ms. Howard. As all teachers know though, there’s always that one student that notices everything. Let’s call mine Ashley. After Ashley heard one of my colleagues say “Hey, Mrs. Johnson,” she looked at me with the serious face she was accustomed to making and with a slight attitude she said, “so that’s your real name, huh?” I burst out laughing and with her mask under her chin, she smirked at me as though she uncovered my secret. It was no secret but she was right, I was in fact, Mrs. Johnson. I previously wrote about changing my name here and all of those feelings were reified by my class. To my students, I was who I was. My expectations of them were the same. We still laughed at the same things. Learning was still fun (I hope). And if I’m being honest, a part of me was grateful that in a season of so many changes, my students were a constant. This will be my only Pre-K class that knows me as Ms. Howard and I thought this truth would sadden me but I’m not sad at all. This year, Ashley and I may be the only ones who knew my real name was Mrs. Johnson, but I’m excited to introduce myself as Mrs. Johnson to all of my future Pre-K students.
Lesson 2: It’s okay not to be great. Just keep working towards it.
As go with the flow as I am, I can be a perfectionist (read more here). I want to be good at most things, even if I’m not the best. I want to do everything right on the first try. I know this isn’t realistic but it doesn’t change how I feel. Even though I could see the growth my students made and their parents told me I did a good job and my co-workers complimented me, there were still moments I felt like my students deserved so much more than me. I wanted to give them all the things and as a first year Pre-K teacher, I didn’t feel like I had the experience I needed to do that. But I realized what I gave them meant something; there was value in it. I have lots of ideas I gained from co-workers and experiences I gained from my students to help me be better. I don’t know that I’ll ever be satisfied with the level of work I do because I think there will always be more to learn, but I can stay on the track towards greatness, picking up tools along the way.
Lesson 3: Little humans are humans.
Okay, so this wasn’t a lesson I learned but it was a lesson that was reinforced every day. At such young ages, my students had very strong opinions about things and thoughts that were worthy of my attention. Sometimes I lacked the patience to hear them out but when I did, I marveled at how much they knew. In the future, I hope to celebrate more of who they are, quirks and all. One of my students had a habit of asking me questions she already knew the answer to and moving forward instead of being annoyed, I hope to be more curious. Sometimes I did do a better job of being more curious and patient. My bonus child repeated random phrases (“My daddy’s going to get my cat car.”) and often times instead of simply ignoring him, I would ask him more questions. He usually just repeated his phrase but it was our way of bonding. Children at this age are learning how to relate to others and the world around them. As their teacher, I play a vital role in what that looks like. They may be little now but soon they won’t be and in the story of their lives, I don’t want to be one of the people who overlooked who they were because I was big enough to; I want to be one of the people who treated them like the humans they are.
Over the years, I am sure I will learn a lot more lessons. Bring it on, year 2!
Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.