17 Things Moms and Dads Do That Make Preschool Teachers Go Bonkers
A good preschool teacher is worth her weight in gold and then some but, unfortunately, her compensation will never get close to that. Her career choice doesn't garner much respect in our society, and she's often looked down upon for her low status job. As more pressure is put upon her to prepare students for kindergarten, she's taken on even more duties—doing student assessments, teaching pre-reading skills, and supplying the overall academic rigor that many parents and preschool directors now demand. All the while, she must make it light, fun, and entertaining for her young students.
She also deals with kids who have life-threatening food allergies, who are autistic, hyperactive, and emotionally troubled, and who come to school with colds, head lice, and empty bellies. Behind the scenes (much to the surprise of some parents), she's responsible for upkeep at the school: vacuuming the rugs, cleaning the bathrooms, and mopping the floors. It's no wonder the average annual turnover rate for child care staff in the United States is a whopping 30 percent!
Although more and more responsibility is put on her shoulders, she has less and less power as the federal government continues to intervene in early childhood education. The last thing she needs are parents who add to her workload, make unreasonable demands, are condescending, and don't appreciate her talents and dedication. With that in mind, here are 17 things moms and dads do that make preschool teachers go bonkers:
1. Sending Your Kid to Class in Fancy Duds
A good preschool teacher facilitates hands-on experiences for her young learners: painting with their fingers, building castles with moats in the sandbox, and creating strawberry-banana smoothies in the blender. The last thing she wants to hear after providing hours of stimulating activities is mom and dad complaining about the spots on their child's new outfit. When I was teaching preschool, I actually had one mother threaten to send me the dry cleaning bill! Unless it's picture day, parents should always send their youngster to class in play clothes that can get dirty and even stained. It's preschool, people, not a fashion show!
2. Sending Your Child to Class in Crocs, Sandals, and Slippers
A good preschool teacher knows the value of outdoor time for kids: playing tag, jumping rope, making obstacle courses, and climbing on the equipment. Impractical shoes turn a child into a spectator, rather than a participant. She misses out on the innumerable benefits of this unstructured time to socialize, get exercise, and use her imagination.
3. Requesting Special Treatment for Your Child
A good preschool teacher is always thinking about what's best for the class as a whole. Unlike a parent, she doesn't have many opportunities to attend to the unique needs of each child. While most moms and dads are fully cognizant of this fact, there are usually one or two who aren't. They're seemingly blind to the other 19 children in the class, requesting special treatment for their little tyke. One mother wanted me to leave the classroom, go to the kitchen, and microwave her daughter's snack every day so her precious girl could have a warm meal. Much to her chagrin, I informed her that Mollie would need to consume the apple slices and string cheese just like everyone else. Needless to say, she was devastated.
4. Wanting Your Child to Do Workbooks and Worksheets
A good preschool teacher knows paper-pencil tasks and sitting still are not developmentally appropriate for young children who learn best through sensory experiences. A parent who thinks “real” learning involves a youngster at a desk writing in a workbook is misguided and needs to read up on what a quality early childhood education looks like. Believe me, providing hands-on experiences requires way more effort and creativity than just having kids write in workbooks!
5. Thinking That Preschool Is Preparation for Kindergarten
A good preschool teacher has a background in early childhood education and appreciates that the first five years of life are truly unique. She does not see preschool as just another year in a child's long academic journey. She sees it as a time to develop a love of learning, to explore, make friends, and experience new things. The goal of preparing a youngster for kindergarten is much too narrow for a talented preschool teacher as she strives to offer so much more!
6. Complaining That the Classroom Is Too Noisy
While most moms and dads appreciate that a noisy preschool classroom means conversations are taking place, questions are getting answered, and exploration is underway, there's always one or two who see it as a negative. In their opinion, a calm and quiet classroom is where “real” learning happens with children sitting still while listening to the teacher. These are typically the same people who hush their co-workers at the adjacent cubicles, insist on a "no talking" policy at the movies even during the previews, and always wear noise-canceling headphones on the subway. While kids should certainly not get too loud (they should use their "indoor voices" as we say in the business), they need to talk and play. It's a preschool, folks, not a library!
7. Complaining to the Director Rather Than Speaking to Us
For most preschool teachers (but especially the veterans), this one really stings and feels like a betrayal. If you know the teacher is conscientious, creative, and wants the best for her students, please have the respect and courtesy to go to her first when you have a problem. Don't go behind her back, sneak off to the director, and grip about something. Not cool!
I once had a student whose mother was a pediatrician. She objected to a game the kids played called “Person to Person” in which they touched each other when I called out commands such as: “hand to hand,” “back to back,” and “knee to knee.” She thought it would spread germs, and if she had come to me and said so, I would have immediately seen her point and stopped the game. Instead, she went to my boss and complained, leaving me feeling disrespected and mad.
8. Complimenting Us for Our Patience
While preschool teachers do indeed have an enormous amount of patience, it's frustrating when moms and dads see only that and not the entirety of our skill set. We are trained professionals who are college educated, have taken classes in early childhood education, and sometimes have even earned a master's degree. We've been schooled in developmental psychology, developmentally appropriate practices, and classroom management. Please notice our many talents beyond just putting up with a lot of crap!
9. Speaking to Us in a Condescending Manner
Many mothers and fathers can't imagine spending their days in a preschool classroom, encouraging children to drive Matchbox cars through shaving cream and make animal sculptures out of papier mache. Preschool teachers, though, are a rare breed and love doing these hands-on activities with a bunch of wide-eyed youngsters who are eager to try anything new. It's patronizing, however, when parents make comments such as, “you have paint on your blouse” or “what a big mess you have to clean up!”
Instead, parent should say something that acknowledges the teacher's efforts: “Thanks for always finding new and exciting activities to keep the kids involved. You always give 100 percent and we so appreciate it.” After all, you wouldn't say to a doctor who just performed successful surgery on your spouse, “hey, doc, you have a big blob of blood on your scrubs!”
10. Bringing Your Child Late to Class
We all get stuck in traffic or have hectic mornings from time-to-time but always arriving late to class is a nasty habit that should be broken. It not only sets a bad example for the child but starts her day off at school in a fragmented way. It interrupts the class and is insulting to the teacher, conveying the message that preschool is just not a big priority in this parent's busy life.
When I was teaching preschool, I had a mother who brought her daughter 20 minutes late to class every single day. She was starting her own baking company and had a haughty attitude that the world revolved around her. Her daughter seemed frazzled and disorientated when arriving, and it took her a good 15 minutes to settle down and get into the groove.
11. Bringing Your Child Early to Class
You don't arrive at the dentist's office 20 minutes before your appointment and expect to be seen, do you? The answer is “of course, not!” Some cheeky moms and dads, though, think it's okay to drop off their child early at preschool and then make a dash for it, leaving the teacher in charge of babysitting the youngster.
Preschool teachers have a million and one things to do before class begins. They often need to set up stations, talk to one another about how the day will run, and rush around to gather the needed supplies for various projects. They don't have time to watch your child and keep her entertained. While I've never witnessed parents doing this with veteran teachers, I've seen them do it frequently with young, inexperienced ones. Shame on them for taking advantage!
12. Arriving Late for Pick-Up
It's understandable when this happens once or twice, but it infuriates the teacher when it happens more frequently and no explanation or apology is offered. She may need this short window of time to scarf down some lunch and get ready from her next class. She may need to clean the classroom, return phone messages, pick up her own kids from school, or go to another job (because her wage is so low, she may have another gig or two).
While some youngsters take being picked up late in stride, others definitely don't. They feel abandoned and sad, and the teacher must comfort them and keep them occupied so they don't cry. While these tardy moms and dads may be charged a late fee, they don't realize that it goes into the pocket of the preschool owner and the teacher doesn't see a dime of it. So, parents, for the sake of the child's emotional well-being and the teacher's sanity, please arrive on time for dismissal.
13. Giving Your Child a Long, Lingering Goodbye When Dropping Her Off
A preschool teacher's worst nightmare — the parent who's been instructed to give a brief, nonchalant goodbye to their child but insists on doing the opposite. Because seeing her child sad and emotional feeds her ego, making her feel loved and needed, she won't leave even when the teacher tries to shoo her out the door. Her long, drawn-out departure upsets the youngster, making her cry and scream, distressing the other students and angering the teacher. Say a quick goodbye, moms and dads. Your child make be sad for a brief while and then she'll be fine — just like the teacher told you!
14. Rolling Your Eyes When Your Child Has Made a "Messy" Painting at the Easel or Some Other Art Work You Deem Unworthy
A good preschool teacher knows the benefits of open-ended art: painting at the easel, sculpting with clay, drawing, coloring, printmaking, and creating collages. These activities let kids express themselves, experiment with materials, and try new techniques without adult interference. While these activities may not result in masterpieces to be framed and hung in one's home, they promote imagination, initiative, and independence. That's what the goal of preschool art should be, not creating a crafty project to display on the refrigerator or give to grandma.
When a parent rolls her eyes as a child proudly shows off her latest painting or the sculpture she created from recycled materials, it's beyond disheartening to a teacher. I even had moms and dads refuse to take such projects home because they found them so displeasing. It's tragic because open-ended art is a reflection of the child, her uniqueness, and her abilities as a preschooler.
15. Challenging the Preschool's Philosophy
When parents look at preschools for their youngster, they have many choices: Montessori, Waldorf, play-based co-op, and the list goes on. To the untrained eye, they may look similar in many ways, but they're differentiated by their unique philosophies. A preschool's philosophy is what guides instruction, interactions with the kids, and the overall atmosphere. A philosophy is firm and won't change according to the latest whims in early childhood education.
Nothing is more aggravating to a teacher than a parent who picks a preschool and then challenges its philosophy. If you want your 4-year-old child to only be in a classroom with other 4-year-olds, Montessori is not for you. If you want your youngster exposed to technology at an early age, Waldorf is not for you. If you want your child prepared academically for kindergarten, a play-based co-op is not for you. Do your homework, moms and dads, and choose carefully. Fighting with the teacher about the school's philosophy is just not fair and an utter waste of time!
16. Fretting That Your Child Is Being Bullied
Bullying has become a hot topic in the last few years, both at school and in the workplace. Many books and articles have been written on the matter, and many daytime talk shows have examined both bullies and their victims. Not surprisingly, the issue is on the minds of many moms and dads. This becomes a problem when ill-informed parents complain to teachers about bullying at preschool when it simply isn't happening. Teachers become exasperated when moms and dads slap the bullying label onto any negative behavior displayed by a youngster.
Once again, it's useful when parents understand the stages youngsters transition through as they mature. Preschoolers, for example, have just moved through the period of “parallel play” in which youngsters play adjacent to one another but not with one another. This typically occurs when kids are 2 and 3.
Hence, kids at preschool are just beginning to learn how to interact with one another. Their vocabularies and social skills are limited, and they may experience disagreements and get frustrated with one another because of this. According to noted pediatrician, Dr. Bill Sears, most children don't know how to truly share until they're 7 or 8. They may go through the motions when they're younger because their parents and teachers tell them to do so, but they don't really understand why it's important. That because they're highly egocentric at this stage.
Bullying at school means a youngster is methodically picking on another child and is not in the nature of a preschooler. By calling someone a bully, a parent is demonizing a child who's simply struggling to learn how to interact with others. So, parents, if you see a specific behavior that's destructive, please bring it to the attention of the teacher, but don't label it as bullying.
17. Giving Us Yet Another Mug
Okay, I understand that this last one sounds a little ungracious. But, if you only knew how many mugs a preschool teacher receives, you'd know why I'm including it. While any token of appreciation is welcome, teachers especially like gifts that show you know something about them. A teacher who's a dog lover would be delighted with a gift basket containing a dog bowl, biscuits, and a leash. A teacher who likes spending time at the ocean would love a beach bag stuffed with a towel, sunscreen, and some fun snacks. A teacher who enjoys reading would appreciate a gift card for her favorite book store.
The gifts I treasure most are the notes of gratitude. When a parent and child take the time to write a message and draw a picture, it just melts my heart and is something I'll keep forever. It's especially meaningful when they express thanks for specific things we've done during the school year: making piggy banks out of clay, taking a field trip to a bird sanctuary, or putting on a talent show.
Here Are More Gift Ideas for a Dedicated Preschool Teacher!
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© 2018 McKenna Meyers