Day in the Life of a Preschool Teacher
As one of the Preschool Plus Teachers at St. Katharine Drexel Elementary School, Renae Green is also responsible for the before and after school care which means early mornings, lots of coffee and trying to match the energy level of 3, 4 and 5 year olds! Preschool Plus incorporates all three age groups for children whose families need full time school options.
3:45 AM - Wake up, get dressed, eat a quick breakfast, fill my coffee mug and drive to school.
4:45 AM - As the first one at the school, I walk into a dark gym, turn on the lights and make my way to the classroom. Next, I take out my prayer journal and spend at least five minutes praying.
4:50 AM - I start to get the before school care room ready for the students who will start to arrive at 6:45 AM. This includes: bringing before care items into the entryway, laying out coloring pages, markers, and check-in sheet and unlocking the doors.
I also use this time to get the preschool rooms back in order from the after school care and preschoolers the day before. This includes making up cots for nap time, stacking them according to location to make them easier to put down, checking the daily project and write centers on the board, lay out papers for the writing center, as well as other items for the other centers. Centers are different activities that are throughout the room and can include cutting, gluing, and other skills preschools need to develop. The students spend 10 minutes at each center before switching to a new one.
Next I fill my water bottle and make a little more coffee.
I attend to a pile of toys and books from yesterday that need a quick repair, as we are still working on treating toys and books gently. Duct tape on the Barbie car, clear tape on pages of a book, find the book that the dust cover belongs to, put away a pile of kitchen food toys that was stacked in a neat arrangement under my desk. We are also working on putting toys away where they belong.
If I have time, I will cut out project pieces, put them into individual bags with names and double check I have the correct students listed for the correct days before I file them. Finally, I check my email to see if there are any absences and respond to parent emails if needed.
6:45 AM - My day really begins! I leave the room and sit in the entryway waiting for students to arrive. I greet them and mark their names and times of arrival. I help those who are having trouble adjusting to a new day with a quick hug and words of encouragement.
As soon as most students arrive, I help the younger students get their backpacks unpacked and then return to my desk and set up superhero check-in where our students can tap their superhero on the smart board to show they are here for the day!
7:30 AM - Before care children head out to the playground on good weather days or head to their classrooms on inclement weather days. Then, parents begin coming with their preschoolers. Ms. Vicki, our Preschool Educational Assistant, checks in the students for both rooms, and asks them what they want for lunch, while Mrs. Duran-Garcia, the other Preschool Teacher, and myself greet children and parents.
THE DAY BEGINS
7:45 AM - Children gather on the carpet, and we begin each day with the most important thing: prayer. We go around and each child shares his/her prayer intentions. We try to limit them to one or two things, because intentions frequently turn into very long stories.
After we pray, I tell them who the helpers are for the day: the calendar helper, the teacher’s helper and the line leader. At this time, I review our big word, as well as the state we are learning about. I explain the writing center paper, explain what the other centers are and review the expectations of each center before we break into groups.
8:40 AM - We begin clean-up: Ms. Vicki and I help the students wipe tables, sweep the floor, before I set hand wipes out on the table. Next, we line up at the door to go into the hall to get ready for recess. In the winter, we get all of our winter gear from the hall and bring it into the room. We strive to have them be as independent as possible, putting all items on by themselves. We always ask them to try it first before asking for help. As they dress, Ms. Vicki and I dress as well. By the time I am ready, there is a long line of students who cannot pull on the last glove or misplace a hat. I dig around in my emergency winter gear to find something that will work.
9:00 AM - Recess officially begins! I lead both classrooms of children out to the playground and Ms. Vicki follows to encourage the stragglers. The teachers walk around all recess watching closely to remind the children to please share, please don’t exclude your friends, no hiding under the stairs and no licking ice off the bottom of the slide. We also help put hats and gloves back onto a multitude of children.
On warmer days, if the slides are wet, I climb the playset to dry off the slides and crawl through the tunnel with towels. Occasionally, I will even find a little courage to go down one of the slides, which the children love to see.
9:20 AM - Recess is over and we line up to head back inside. The children take off winter gear, put their shoes back on, wipe their hands and then we pray before we enjoy our snack. As soon as I sit down at my desk to take off my winter gear, a child is asking for more water. I ask them to be patient. I overhear a student say, “You know, if you say please real nice, it really makes her move faster!” I turn my head and hide a smile.
9:45 AM - When they finish eating and ask to be excused, I read them a story, then show an educational video about what we are learning for the day. I then discuss what was learned on the video, and try to keep their stories of grandma and their birthday when they turned three for another time.
Keeping an eye on the clock and knowing how long it takes for some students to work, I introduce the project and show them, step-by-step, how to make it.
I dismiss them to their tables, ask the teacher’s helper to distribute the items needed and then the students begin to work. I remind the 5-year-old you do not have to put the glue stick out as far as it will go, and to turn the paper, not the scissors, while cutting. I help the 3-year-old navigate around the corners of his cutting project, while telling the 5-year-old she can do it all by herself and reminding them all to make the project their own by adding details.
As they finish, students are encouraged to look at books and try to find the letter of the week. I put completed projects in the students' folders, begin cleaning up and send them to the bathroom one at a time to wash for lunch.
10:20 AM - If there is a large group that needs to wash for lunch, Ms. Vicki will take them to the big bathrooms. They line up at the door and I remind some children we don’t push others and to please go to the very back of the line.
Using these precious childless moments to my best advantage, I quickly begin laying cots down. It is so much easier to put cots down when they are not in the room than trying to walk through a large group of preschoolers in the dark, trying not to step on fingers or heads, or trip over little feet.
10:30 AM - When students return and I get the report of some bathroom parties that occurred, a quick discussion of behavior and expectations takes place. We then begin the movie for this transitional time. Usually one movie lasts for about a week, because we only watch about 15 minutes a day. I remind them all again they need to sit on their bottoms, crisscross with hands in their laps. Make another note to self: change the seating spots because the tallest boy in the class is in the very front for movie time, preventing anyone else from seeing, especially when he rocks back and forth on his knees.
While they are watching the movie, Ms. Vicki prepares lunch cards while I go to the hall to put the folders into backpacks, bring all the backpacks and winter bags into the room, separating them into the ones going home and the ones going to after school care.
Then, we pray before we go to lunch.
11:00 AM - I line the students according to their choice of entrée and lead them down to the lunchroom. I start seating them as they go through the line until my back-up relief pitcher appears. I race back to the room to enjoy my 20-minute lunch time that remains to put the rest of the cots down, put up the remaining mats, and pull my lunch from the fridge. Hurriedly, I make my daily salad and begin eating, while checking emails from parents or the office. Then, I look up to see it is already time to get the children from the lunchroom. How does that time go by so fast?
11:30 AM - I walk to the lunchroom with Mrs. Duran-Garcia. I take my line to the bathroom for a final break before naptime. Some insist they do not have to go, but I always make them try. Because the boys like to have their own sort of fun in the bathrooms, I only send in two at a time to make it less of a temptation.
I walk the students back to the dark room, and ask them to find their cozy spots. I cover up the ones who request help, and talk in a soft, gentle voice. I turn on soft piano music and quietly hush those who are having trouble settling. Soon, most of them are asleep.
12:00 PM - Time to get some work done. Newsletter writing, lesson plans, and emails are a few of the things I try to catch up on during these quiet moments. Sometimes, I find unique crafts online and give them a try. Once in a while they might turn out, but more often than not they are a complete fail. I laugh at myself, sometimes taking a picture to recall the struggle, and place the remnants into the recycling.
1:30 PM - Then it is time to begin waking the children up and let the children decide if they are ready to get up. If they are, they remove the plastic bag from under the cot, place their sheet, blanket and pillow inside, and put the bag on the table closest to the cupboard.
Ms. Vicki and I do teamwork as we pick up the cots, disinfecting each before stacking the next. We put the blankets into the cupboard and get the children who want to eat the afternoon snack some water. We use this time as a relaxing, book-reading, playtime. Some choose to color, others play in the kitchen or with Legos. We monitor the free time happening in the room, intervening when necessary or joining them in their play.
2:30 PM - They all collaborate as they clean up and prepare to go home. We make two lines at the door, those going home and those staying. We walk down the hall and the after school care students hang their backpacks by the gym, while those going home go outside and gather around the flagpole waiting for mommy, daddy or a grandparent to take them home.
2:50 PM - Once all the students are picked up, I breathe a sigh of relief and go back into the building to collect my after school care preschoolers and kindergarteners for another hour of fun. When that is finished, I gather my belongings, walk out to my car satisfied and blessed that I lived the day as best I could.
I return home, make dinner, visit with my adult children and husband via phone or in person and find out about their days. I check emails one more time and watch about 20 minutes of TV until I catch myself falling asleep sitting up. I crawl into bed, pray one final time, listen to the Bible and go to sleep prepared to do it all again tomorrow.