I had a teaching seminar this past weekend. The topic was “Setting Up for a Great School Year.” It wasn’t the best seminar I have ever been to, but I there were a few moments that offered inspiration. The woman leading the seminar asked each person to introduce themselves and talk about why he or she wanted to become a teacher. The answers were not out of the ordinary- wanting to be a role model, hoping to make a difference in children’s lives, devoting your time to a meaningful career. I wasn’t surprised by the responses, but I was touched by the idea of a room full of people all wanting to become educators. If I had to guess, most of the people at the seminar were in their late thirties and early forties. They all have jobs and families and responsibilities. Yet, they are devoting their time to learning this new profession. Certainly not because it pays well. Definitely not because it is easy. They do it because they love children and want to influence them in a positive way.
When it was my time to answer, I responded that I wanted to become a teacher because I thought it was a job I would enjoy. I have worked many jobs just to pay the bills. When I decided to go back to college, I determined I wanted a career where I liked what I did every day. Whenever I volunteer in my son’s classroom, I have a wonderful time. At group gatherings, I am usually found playing with the kids instead of talking to the adults. I love to see the way children think. They come from a place that is completely fresh and new. They have their own way of thinking, free of past experience or outside influence (well, not completely free, but certainly less tainted). It’s creativity in action.
I taught my third session of Kat Camp today, and came away having definitely enjoyed myself. I believe the kids did too. But teachers need to not only entertain, they need to impart knowledge. I can keep them engaged, but have they learned anything from me? I’m not sure.
I was happy to hear that many of my campers retained information from last week’s lesson on texture. I even woke up to hear my youngest son, Kellen, babbling about texture in his crib one morning. Today, we made contact paper collages that could be hung in the window like suncatchers. I asked if anyone remembered the word for something being see-through, and one of my students responded with a three year old’s garbled version of “transparent.” I could see my students learned something the week prior, but had they learned anything today?
We talked about color in today’s lesson. My idea was to use a couple of different experiments to illustrate how primary colors could be used to create secondary colors. When I defined primary colors, they looked at me blankly, and then began fidgeting. We had already done an introductory activity, so I think their attention was waning. I figured we better get to actively working or I’d lose them completely.
We did a series of experiments using food coloring and other materials to make primary colors into secondary colors. The hands-on activity was much more effective at illustrating my point. I don’t think any of the kids would be able to define “primary colors.” But if I asked “what color do you get when you mix red and yellow,” many of them would know the answer.
Or at least I think they would. We reviewed the information over snack, and many seemed to know what color combinations made what. But at the end of the day when I asked, they all looked at me blankly. Having done one introduction exercise, two crafts, and two experiments in a two hours time frame, I think they were just over stimulated. It is a tricky balance with preschoolers. From my education, I know they need time to process information in order to retain it. But I also know they behave best when they have an activity to do. I think I need to re-evaluate my lesson to make time for activities that keep them focused but also offer a little bit of downtime- maybe songs, additional books, puzzles, etc.
I do offer many opportunities for free play, but as a teacher, this can become chaotic. This is partially due to being in my home, and not in a classroom. In the classroom, the teacher can look around and see all of her students and what they are doing. When I give free play in my home, the kids scatter all over- some to the front room, some to my sons’ bedrooms, others to the play area near the kitchen. It sets my heart racing. I end up pacing around counting heads, making sure everyone is accounted for. These kids know my home well, so they know where the toys are, and whose bedrooms have what items.
This point touches on my real weakness, both as a parent, and a teacher- discipline. I’m sure I could force them to stay in one area during free play instead of my patrolling, but that would mean making at least some of them momentarily unhappy. I have such a hard time doing that. Whenever I talk about studying to be a teacher, people always talk about how much kids like me. There in is my challenge- I need them to like me and respect me. Often, I only succeed at the first part.
I will be forever indebted to these moms brave enough to let me practice my skills and learn from their children. I feel so fortunate that I get this chance to ease into teaching, in a familiar environment with children I know and love. Of course, I am learning from the experience. I just hope they are too.