Why I teach preschool (instead of kindergarten)

Splatypus’s comment about my last post got me thinking about the days when I taught kindergarten in one high-poverty school after another.

Kindergarten can be high-stress for a teacher.  And not just because her students are living in poverty and have all the problems that go with poverty.  Kindergarten can be high-stress because districts are now putting a lot of pressure on the teachers to close the achievement gap and produce results. 

Your kids should be doing these things at the start of the year, and if they’re not, you better catch them up.  Then in January you better show these test results, and by the end of the year, they better know how to do every single one of things things on this long list here.

When I taught kindergarten, my children showed up years behind, and I had to try to get them through all the educational and social experiences that they missed in the first five years of their lives, plus get them through kindergarten to be ready for first grade.  In many instances, it wasn’t possible.  I would be trying to teach the kids to read and they would go to the bathroom and not come back.  I’d go see what they were doing, and find them at the sink, lost in rapture, playing with water and bubbles.  When they were toddlers, they never got to play with water and bubbles, and here they were, making up for lost time.

I tried really hard to teach preschool and kindergarten simultaneously, but that was hard.  I tried to be their teacher, their mother, their father, their social worker, their therapist, and their disciplinarian, but that was hard, too. 

I went home every day feeling like a failure.

Now I teach prekindergarten, and while I work with a similar demographic, it’s a different experience entirely.  My kids come to me missing all sorts of things they should have gotten in the first four years of their lives, sure, but for some reason, getting them one year earlier makes a world of difference.

I can get them through preschool, and I can get them ready for kindergarten.  In fact, I can send them off to kindergarten even a little bit ahead of the game.

I go home every night feeling like a success.

So that’s why I’m a preschool teacher.

(image from superdairyboy.com via Google images)

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10 thoughts on “Why I teach preschool (instead of kindergarten)

  1. I loved this post. Being a PreK teacher is the best. Who else gets to play all day and get paid for it. We use ECCRS standards.. silly stuff like ” have a conversation with a child..” Check! ” Sing a song spontaneous…” Check! Oh please.. make me do all this stuff!

  2. I have such similar feelings about what I do. I have toyed with the idea of moving to kindergarten but keep staying right here. I think the contentment and joy of my work has finallly settled in to stay.

  3. so well said. i felt so similiar teaching first grade as a classroom teacher. i left to go to special ed where i could be a support to the teachers and the children, without being everything else. i knew the ‘everyday i went home feeling like a failure’ feeling well. the change was great, and maybe one day i’ll go back, but i like serving the children where i do.

    preschool is so much more important than others realize. i’m so glad to know there are preschool teachers like you out there!

  4. I’m sure you may have felt like a failure…but you probably meant the world to those kids. Just because testing and achievements don’t show success, doesn’t mean you didn’t succeed. I’m glad you found your niche and are happy teaching prek. I hope that I will find my special grade and feel that I too am making a difference :)

  5. I agree that teaching kindergarten can be tiring and at times you feel like a failure, but I love to see the times when it finally clicks in that student who has not caught on all year. I am so glad that there are pre-school teachers who are really trying to prepare their students for kindergarten. It makes a huge different when students come in and they have went to a pre-s chool versus staying at home and not being worked with. That is another challenge that makes tecahing kindergarten hard is that you sometimes can’t get the parents to help their children better understand what is being taught at school. I do believe however that even though our students don’t always seem to get what we are teaching, we impact their lives in ways we might never know.

  6. I can’t express how happy I am to have stumbled upon your blog.
    Lately I’ve been so confused having a hard time figuring out which grade level i should get into teaching. Alot of people have been telling me well just pick one, its elementary anyways its the same. I knew that couldn’t be true, but I lacked the experience to voice how different of a teaching experience it could be even if it was just a year apart.
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience, I see things alot clearer now.

  7. Evelyn, I’m glad you found my blog, too! Let me know what grade level you decide on. I’m always amazed by people who can go from teaching first to teaching fifth without batting an eyelash. That would send me around the bend. Preschool all the way for this teacher!

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