Preschool Teachers Don't Get Enough Credit
Preschool teachers. If angels on earth truly exist, I think they come in the form of preschool teachers.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that good teachers are literal heroes. The way teachers have shown up, stepped up, gotten creative and kept our children on the path to learning has been nothing short of a miracle. Teachers deserve our respect– and a giant raise.
For both of my sons, their deep love for teachers started early because they got a gem in Pre-K. Both of them have been lucky to have amazing, invested, kind, professional preschool teachers.
I am convinced that nobody has been more instrumental in fostering a love for learning than our sons’ preschool teachers.
They provide so much more than daycare. People who love on our babies when they are in daycare are wonderful, important, and worthy of respect. The world as we know it would cease to turn if daycares stopped providing their services. I can’t say enough about how important safe, loving childcare is.
But a preschool teacher has a different role. In my son’s public preschool, his teacher is required to submit lesson plans and progress reports like elementary school. She has to make sure she is meeting the educational requirements outlined by the state, and she has to keep an eye on all twenty kids to make sure nobody is falling through the cracks. A lot of preschool teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree in education or a child development field.
The amount of knowledge a child acquires before preschool can vary wildly. In the same class, you might have a child who can read sight words and a child who can’t identify one single letter. Preschool teachers have to be able to accommodate the educational and emotional needs of a classroom full of children with absolutely no common background. Their goal to prepare their students for kindergarten is not easily met, but they face the challenge head-on — and a great majority of their kids are successful in that goal.
A preschool teacher’s job is so much more than ABCs and 123s.
Four and newly-five-year-olds are not the same as seven or eight-year-olds. They’re still in that phase between baby and big kid, some of them away from their parents for the first time. They might still have potty accidents. Preschool teachers need to support the complicated emotional needs of children who are barely older than babies while preparing them for “big school.”
Every morning, someone is crying when their grown-up leaves, but somehow, every single afternoon, I see twenty smiling faces come running out the door, clutching their schoolwork to their chests, proud to tell their parents what they worked on that day.
My son is the only child in his class with an IEP. Letters and numbers are his very favorite things, and he taught himself to read and do math before preschool began. Academically, he didn’t really need preschool. He is autistic and has a speech delay, and his whole team agreed that he would benefit socially from being in a mainstream classroom for a year. We were hoping that having nineteen typical peers to observe would help him understand how a classroom setting works. We entered this school year knowing that we were all participating in an experiment to see if Walker would be happy in a mainstream classroom. (I would have found a private program if it didn’t work for us. My parents were willing to help with the cost.)
I can’t begin to tell you how amazing his teacher has been. He has truly blossomed in preschool. Mrs. B knows that his goals aren’t academic, so she communicates all of his social progress to me. I never have to wonder how he is doing, and she doesn’t sugar coat. If he is struggling, I know. If he is excelling, I know that, too.
His classroom aide is also a godsend.
My boy bonded with her even before his main teacher, and she has made his time in preschool truly enjoyable for all of us.
Just this week, Walker’s teacher sent me a photo of him pushing another child on the swings. He has learned how to order his own lunch in the cafeteria, wait patiently in line, ask other children to play, and cooperate during small group activities. His teacher and the classroom aide have managed to instill every important lesson in my son, and everyone is excited to see how he continues making headway on his goals in kindergarten.
To me, that is even more impressive than Mrs. B’s ability to teach academics—although that skill is literally amazing, and she is setting the stage for lifelong learning every single time she helps a child learn their shapes and colors.
My older son is neurotypical, but preschool was transformative for him, too.
As a general rule, he was very anxious about being away from me, but the idea of school excited him. I chose a private program for him when he was four, and he flourished. His teacher saw everything that was strong in him and paired him up with kids who needed his influence. She also saw his weaknesses, and encouraged him to play with kids who could elevate him. His preschool teacher is still a friend to this day—and I can’t say enough wonderful things about how she did her job.
Whether a child is neurotypical like my oldest or neurodivergent like my second child, I think they can benefit from the tutelage of an amazing preschool teacher. I can’t wait for my last baby to get her chance to go, too.
The educated professionals who teach our youngest children don’t always get the respect they deserve, but I’m here to sing their praises.
Preschool teachers, you are the foundation builders. Your instruction is the solid ground on which our kiddos will construct their entire education. If nobody has told you how amazing you are today, I’d like to offer you a heaping spoonful of gratitude from all the thankful parents whose children have benefitted from your life’s work.
You’re amazing, and so much of our babies’ success is a feather in your cap. Thank you for everything you do.
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