“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s the perennial question asked of countless children over countless decades. For those who want to live joyful, youthful lives even after they’ve grown up, the answer should be “preschool teacher.” Here are five reasons why working in a preschool is the best job you’ll ever have.
A Culture of Play
Many high-quality, evidence-based preschools center on play as the child’s principal work. The idea is that children were born to play and that the primary way they construct their own knowledge about the world around them is through open-ended, creative play. Although creating and implementing an emergent curriculum for young learners technically counts as work, there is also lots of play involved in the life of a preschool teacher.
Tech giants and retail corporations alike have gone to great lengths to reinvent the workplace to increase productivity and focus on the wellbeing of employees. For example, many of the items on Forbes’ list of 25 Ways To Cut Employee Stress and Increase Productivity read like a description of an early learning center, including bright colors, natural light, plenty of physical activity, healthy snacks, and positive messaging. Another item on the Forbes list: focusing on others. You’ll do plenty of that as a preschool teacher.
Although there is no corporate ladder per se in the preschool environment, as an early childhood educator, you will never stop learning and growing in your job. Seasoned, experienced teachers who stay up-to-date on the latest research and best practices are worth their weight in gold. If, after teaching in the classroom for a while, you decide you want a change of pace, there are plenty of different paths you can take:
- Teach the teachers. Although you may want to go into full-time teaching at the college or university level, you don’t have to quit your job in the preschool classroom to teach other teachers. If teacher development is your passion, you can sign up to be a mentor at your center. You could also prepare a workshop or presentation at a professional conference to help other teachers hone their craft.
- Enrich the families. A child’s family is the most critical component of that child’s education and development. In fact, a Reggio-Emilia-based program, such as Little Sunshine’s Playhouse, will teach you that the parents are the “first teacher” in a child’s life, followed by the classroom teacher and the physical environment. Implementing a parent-involvement program at your current center is an excellent way to nurture the relationship between your school and its families. Another way to work directly with families is by joining a community-based parent participation program or an early learning program that incorporates home visits.
- Find the children. Child Find is a process for schools to identify and evaluate children who may qualify for services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. These services include special education, speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and related resources. Although IDEA applies to children all the way up to age 21, IDEA Part C focuses on early intervention for children ages birth to three. Working in the early intervention field enables you to use your knowledge and experience to benefit young children and their families in a very direct way.
- Lead the way. Leadership roles in early childhood education range from center director to policy designer to advocate of the profession at the local or national level. There’s no limit to what you can accomplish as a leader in the ECE field.
Plenty of Opportunities for Personal Development
High-quality preschool programs focus on social-emotional development, among other things. Two pillars of social-emotional learning for preschoolers are self-regulation and conflict resolution. You know how they say that the best way to learn something well is to teach it to someone else? Well, it’s true, and with all of the social-emotional guiding that you do as a preschool teacher, those lessons are bound to rub off on you. You’re almost guaranteed to learn to get along better with others once you start teaching young children.
Last But Not Least: The Kids Will Never Cease To Amaze You
You won’t find a more rewarding career than helping to shape the minds of little humans. As a preschool teacher, your job is to nurture creativity and foster curiosity. However, you will discover that most kids don’t need your help to think outside the box. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you’ll find another gem for your quote wall. If you are able to practice continuity of care in your center, you will be astonished (in a good way) as you see these little people grow and change over just a few short years. Next thing you know, they’re off to Kindergarten, and you’re starting all over again with a whole new room full of little shining faces.
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