My Week as a Pre-School Teacher

15 Jan

I am a people person…kinda. I like people, I like talking to them and interacting with them…but I also need time away from people. Time to read a book or write, neither or which are things that are done too well when interacting with others. (These things can be done in the presence of others…just not in conversation!)

I like to think of myself as an extroverted introvert. I am not a person who thrives on contact with other people…but if I go a couple days with very little contact, I can become far too self-centered and I realize that I need that human contact to remain…well, a happy human.

All that being said, last week was a week of insanity for someone who needs a little non-people time in her life. I had agreed – without stopping to consider my introverted tendencies – that I would substitute as the aide at my children’s old preschool. Yep. Five days of kids…and zero days of writing.

I have a friend who once said – in public – “I do not like other people’s children.” I laughed out loud when she divulged this truth about herself, all the while thinking, “I don’t really either, but I would never admit it out loud.” Well, on careful consideration, it’s not that I don’t LIKE other people’s children…but I definitely do not want to have to take care of them for more than, say, an hour.  Once a year or so.  Tops.

I walked into the classroom on Monday morning, already feeling relieved that I had remembered a former commitment for Tuesday, which got me out of one day of preschool insanity. I was looking at 4 days, however. Four very long days of no reading, no writing, and no quiet.

The day began with a very smiley young man walking up to me proudly and saying, “I got a new belt!” Which, with a tug at his long-sleeved t-shirt, revealed not only the new belt but also his entire abdomen. “That’s great!” I said, smiling nervously in return and wondering if I ought to pull down said shirt or leave him alone to take care of it on his own. After several nanoseconds of deliberation – all the time looking anywhere but at the wee boy – he saved me from having to make a decision by lowering his shirt himself. Thankfully. He did, however, make the exact same declaration in the restroom on Friday, using the exact same tone of excitement in his voice. It’s a big deal, a new belt.

Monday proceeded without too much more excitement, and I headed home that afternoon glad that I only had three days left of this fun.
Tuesday I woke up both relieved and nervous. Nervous for the events of the morning – which I blogged about on my other blog if you’re interested – and relieved that I wouldn’t have to face any more belts.

Wednesday dawned cold and foggy. It also brought a phone call from the preschool teacher. She had the flu. Rather badly. And, with the regular aide being out of town, and no substitutes reachable, that meant that someone would have to phone all 40 children that both the morning and afternoon classes were cancelled. Being a member of the preschool board and the appointed substitute of the day…guess who got to make all those calls? Oh, and by the way, I hate telephones.

By the time I returned home after making approximately 65 phone calls, I was ready to go to bed.

Thursday morning brought yet another phone call from the teacher. Still ill. But, this time, she’d gotten a sub. I drove in wondering what the preschoolers would have to say about not one but TWO substitute teachers.

Can you guess?

“That’s not how we do it!” That’s what they said. Over and over and over. The other frequently-heard sentence of the day was, “You’re supposed to sing a song for that.” To which I replied, “I know, but I don’t know that song.” “We do!” was the shouted response. “Well, then,” I replied, “Can you sing it for me?” “Yes!” the happy children cried. “Okay, go ahead,” I said, knowing perfectly what their response would be.


Total and complete silence.

I must say, however, that the children, though deprived of their regular songs, were wonderfully behaved and the morning went quite well. Since neither of us really knew what we were doing, it was all just fun and games and forgetting names all morning. By afternoon the teacher was well enough to return and never have I felt so relieved!

Friday dawned foggy and cold yet again, but this time as I drove in to school I felt relaxed. I’d made it this far – I could make it another few hours! Turns out, that day was the most fun of all, perhaps because I was the most relaxed and least worried of the entire week.

The day began with a discussion about water, ice and igloos. Somehow the question of penguins and the arctic arose and as the teacher was dealing with a minor behavior issue that involved, I believe, a demonstration of penguin tobogganing, one child commented, “They have penguins at the North Pole.” “What is the North Pole?” another classmate inquired. “It’s kinda like the South Pole,” the first child replied seriously.

I jumped up immediately to write that bit of wisdom down on a scrap of paper.

Later, during Choice Time, I found myself sitting at the playdough table. This proved to be an excellent place for relaxation and stimulation, both. I was relaxed because it was something I was fairly good at: making playdough cookies, snakes, and, as one little boy wanted to make, roads. It was stimulating because of the fabulous conversation around the kidney-shaped table.

“I saw my friend J. at church this morning and I was so exciting to see him. And he was so exciting to see me, too.”

You say “exciting” I say “excited”. Potato PoTAAto.

A few minutes later, when handed a playdough cookie (shaped like a whale) on a tray, my favorite wee girl (I know, you’re not supposed to have favorites. Couldn’t help it.) said, “This is delicious or, as Fancy Nancy would say, ‘it’s delectable’.” How could I not love a child who quotes Fancy Nancy?!

And then there was the candid discussion about one girl’s morning visit to the doctor. “I had to get three shots right here [shows upper leg] this morning and two right here [shows upper arm].” “Oh,” I replied, “that’s a lot of shots. Were you brave?” “No,” she said, smiling. “I cried and cried.”

The “five-minute” warning came about then, and I couldn’t stop grinning as we cleaned up the playdough. Turns out, I do like other people’s kids.

In moderation.

About once a year. Tops.


21 Responses to “My Week as a Pre-School Teacher”

  1. Gwen January 15, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    What a great story! I was an upper elementary school teacher for years, and long-term substituted in Kindergarten once. That experience taught me I’m not cut out for early childhood education. Those teachers deserve a throne in heaven!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      LOL, no kidding! I, too, am cut out for older kids or even college students, whom I taught for a little while. Thanks so much for your kind words and for commenting!

  2. treadlemusic January 15, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    You are so brave! I always knew I was not the “teacher type”. I like kids but, well,……….Anyhow, I am so glad you survived to write this lovely retrospective post. I wager you would do it again, given some elapsed time! Me??? well, let’s just say that maybe I would not have enough “elapsed time” left on this globe!! LOL!! Hugs, Doreen (A definite extrovert who loves her time at the piano and sewing machine!!!)

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2013 at 7:41 am #

      🙂 Let’s just say that it will be awhile before I agree to anything more than, say, one day back in the pre-school saddle! It’s good that everyone is different, made to love a variety of things. How boring the world would be otherwise!

  3. cravesadventure January 15, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    WOW – you are a brave one! Glad to hear you survived:) Happy Tuesday!

  4. Minnesota Prairie Roots January 15, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    A bonus was the blogging material you gained.

  5. bitsandbreadcrumbs January 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

    You have way more patience than I ever would…but glad it turned out okay in the end!

  6. Hotly Spiced January 15, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Good on you, Gretchen. I think I could have done a day but not a full week xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

      I was contemplating very hard whether or not I was getting ill on Thursday – but, with mixed feelings, decided that I was not!

  7. gardenfreshtomatoes January 16, 2013 at 5:31 am #

    I actually like small children – good thing, eh? – it’s around the age of 13 that I can’t deal with them in groups…
    Totally with you on the phone-thing though. At some points in my life, it’s risen almost to Phobia levels. Weird.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

      I think I’m best with adults! I’m glad that I’m not the only one who dislikes phones. I just hate not seeing facial expressions and such. And I hate when two people start talking at once…and I just want to be face to face!!

  8. Alice January 16, 2013 at 11:26 am #

    Heehee– I was an Elementary Education major in my senior year of college when I discovered that I did not enjoy being with children all day. Fortunately, I changed majors and made a lot of children happy.

    • Gretchen O'Donnell January 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      Ha! That is so funny. I started out my Masters out with the thought of working with children and by the time I was done I was so glad that I was getting married and didn’t have to do that afterall!

  9. whatimeant2say January 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

    I could not do Pre-School or Kinder for 8 hours, much less a week. I teach my GT Kinders for 2.5 hours a week – and that is plenty for me 🙂

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