This will come as a surprise to many of you, but teaching preschool isn’t all glamor and fat paychecks. People often don’t realize that an early childhood educator may have dedicated nearly half her life and a substantial portion of her parents’ hard-earned dollars in pursuit of this career. Oh sure, part of the job involves sitting on the bathroom floor, shouting helpful, sing-song advice through the door and showing people where their sock seams are. But this is in addition to a deep knowledge of how a child’s brain develops linguistically, physically, emotionally and cognitively and the ability to apply this in a classroom setting every day with every student on the class roster.
Preschool teachers get asked questions such as “but don’t you just play all day?” or, “isn’t it just basically babysitting?” On a side note, I’ve actually never heard anyone ask a high school teacher “but don’t you just stand around talking to teenagers all day?” or “isn’t it just a chaperoning gig?” ‘Cause who would ever ask such a silly question? Ahem.
However, certain times of the year do bring about a certain amount of vindication. Christmas is one of those times. Our preschool Christmas program is naturally high on the cuteness spectrum, and people tend to chat up our performances until the preschool students are in high school and embarrassed beyond belief that we all remember their habit of rolling their dresses to their chins on stage.
This year, my nursery students are dressing up like snowmen. They have created their own hats and buttons and will sing “I’m a Little Snowman.” I know, right? But let me tell you, they are all very serious about their performance, and don’t take kindly to any cute comments thrown out from bystanders. They are in it for the art, in other words.
However, once they get onstage, the “papa”razzi will get out their cameras, and about 50% of the class will then refuse to perform. The other 50% will put it all out there, red-faced with effort, singing their hearts out about that Little Snowman, still SO COLD even with a Hat and a Scarf. There will be a flurry of applause and then kisses and goodbyes for Miss Leza.
Later, the parents will share the video with family and friends and acquaintances, etc. and while they are watching it, smiling, for the 45th time (it’s really going to be that cute), they will stop for a second. Because that’s their precious child, singing (or not) in a language that, four months ago, was completely unknown to them.
Trust me, folks, that’s a pretty cool thing to realize about your amazing little person. Lucky for preschool teachers in English immersion programs, we get to see it every day. And, I guess, we make it all look just like child’s play.