I love to reminiscence. I love to think back to good times, to replay different experiences in my head, to retell stories. I never know what the future will bring. As I don’t like change, I think this is why the past holds a particular comfort for me. I like to hang on to the past. But the more I live the more this leads to disappointment. Things don’t stay the same; they aren’t as I remembered them. I should learn to take my memories and move on with them, but I too often like to go back.
Last night I had a dream that is a pretty solid example of what I have faced in these past months of teaching. I get really excited about getting new materials for the students in my classroom. But after the initial excitement wears off, worry sets in. I know that as soon as the students get their invariably sticky hands on whatever new thing it may be, it gets broken. Pieces go missing. It may just disappear all together. It happens with crayons, paper, puzzles, magnets, toy animals, and whiteboard markers – especially the caps. This drives me crazy because it seems like such a waste of resources.
And yet when my father bought this for me, I couldn’t help but be excited. It’s basically a Mr.Potato Head puppet. It’s better than a potato though because the students might actually want to play with a monster. I was so excited to take it to the classroom. It will be great for talking about feelings and emotions, for practicing counting, building creativity, and helping to make introducing new concepts exciting.
But the monster puppet has sat in the box of school materials I keep in my apartment (along with an awesome hermit crab puppet I got for Christmas that I also have been scared to take into the classroom because I know if it gets ruined I will become genuinely angry.) The monster puppet is risky to take into the classroom. Beyond the constant worry of it getting covered in syrup, milk, drool, or snot this puppet also has pieces to lose. And it’s a cool puppet. I want my students to enjoy and play with it, but not ruin it. That’s asking a lot of four-year-olds.
It’s amazing how much I have learned already in two weeks about managing a classroom but also daunting because I have also realized how much more I have to learn.
Take day one, for example. We have a sanitizer dispenser by the door. Despite constant reprimands, we could not keep the children from messing with it. They kept getting entire handfuls of sanitizer which they then dripped and dropped all over the classroom. The blatant disregard to the command “don’t touch that” got to me most of all. So at the end of day one, I did this.
Out of sight, out of mind was one of the most important first lessons I learned. Every shelf is now covered with either butcher paper or fabric with only toys and objects intended for student use visible.
More first week experiences below.
It could have been worse. It could have been better. It included:
- three spilled milk cartons (all were full, one hit the new counting carpet)
- one disappeared plastic tub for blocks (seriously no idea where it went. How would they have hidden it? And it’s not like they could have walked out with it under their jackets or something.)
- a ruined magic board when marker was used on it
- a book with a chewed-up spine (That one hurt. It was a book about vegetables though.)
- lots of hugs (which should count as a plus except that I’m not very touchy and they’re pretty germy.) (I kid, the hugs were pretty adorable, as were the goodbyes and eagerness to return tomorrow.)
It really wasn’t that bad. I don’t really know what a good first day looks like, but I think ours was okay. Could have been better, like I said, but everyone survived. We didn’t lose any kids. Other than the missing blocks tub and the milk smell, the classroom stayed in pretty good shape. Tomorrow is a new day and we’ll try again. With time and practice the hope is they’ll actually stop when we stay stop.
They also seemed to enjoy my reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and though they have not yet grasped the concept of single-file line, they learned to be quiet when walking down the hallway so we don’t disturb learning.
I feel like the next two years will be two years of small triumphs like walking quietly down the hallway. Or a day without milk spills. (Let’s hope that day is tomorrow).
I don’t remember too much from preschool. I remember making books using stamps and dictating the text to my teacher. I remember feeling skeptical that she actually wrote down every word I said. I think she took short cuts, but in retrospect, I don’t blame her. I probably talked too much, even then. I remember that I had to go to school with my arm in a sling after I sprained my wrist using our couch as a slide, and I remember that the water/rice table always had a long wait. But I don’t remember my teacher’s name, I don’t remember the books I was read, I don’t remember what I did there all day.
Lucky for me I get to experience preschool all over again, starting tomorrow. Tomorrow is my first day as a preschool teacher with a class. My room isn’t entirely set up, but it is prepared for the first day. First-day lessons include how to walk in line, how to raise our hands, and how to freeze when they hear our transition signal (a bike bell). I’m hoping my students remember more about their experience than the sand/water table but as long as they are kindergarten-ready I’ll consider myself successful.
And if anyone remembers any particularly fun projects they did in preschool, I’m open to suggestions.