Ms. Meyers is a long-time preschool and kindergarten teacher who writes about issues in early childhood education and advocates for play.
More Responsibilities But Same Low Pay
A good preschool teacher is worth her weight in gold but, unfortunately, her compensation will never match that. Her career choice doesn't garner much respect in our society so she's often looked down upon for her low-status job. As pressure mounts to prepare kids academically for kindergarten, though, she's assigned even more duties.
Today, she must regularly assess student performance, teach pre-reading skills, and supply the overall academic rigor that many parents and preschool directors now demand. All the while, she must make it light, fun, and entertaining while always keeping a smile plastered on her face. After all, moms and dads expect her to be perpetually patient and perky even when they're pushing her to the brink with their thoughtless, self-centered behaviors. As most preschool teachers will attest, their young students can bring them boundless joy while parents can bring boundless frustration.
8 Ways That Parents Irritate Preschool Teachers
1. Sending their children to class in fancy duds instead of play clothes.
2. Having their kids wear crocs, slippers, sandals, and boots instead of practical shoes.
3. Requesting special treatment for their own youngster while being totally oblivious to the other kids.
4. Wanting preschool to be a training ground that prepares children academically for kindergarten.
5. Arriving late for pick-up with no excuse or apology.
6. Upsetting their youngster by giving a long, lingering goodbye and making them cry or become clingy.
7. Selecting a preschool with a certain philosophy and then challenging it.
8. Worrying that other children are bullying their kid when, in reality, they're displaying normal age-appropriate behavior.
More Responsibilities But Less Autonomy
On a daily basis, a preschool teacher 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 early childhood educators in the US is a whopping 30 percent.
Although greater responsibility gets put on her shoulders, she has less power than ever as the federal government intervenes more in early childhood education. The last thing she needs, therefore, are moms and dads who add to her workload, make unreasonable demands, are condescending, and don't appreciate her talents and dedication. With that in mind, here are 8 ways preschool parents annoy their child's teacher.
1. Sending Their Kids to Class in Fancy Duds
A talented preschool teacher facilitates hands-on experiences for her young learners. A child may spend the morning doing finger-painting at the art center, building castles in the sandbox, and blending up strawberry-banana smoothies in the kitchen. After providing hours of stimulating activities, the last thing that an exhausted teacher wants to hear at pick-up time is a parent whining: "My child has spots on their clothes!"
Moms and dads should always send their youngsters to preschool in play clothes that are meant to get dirty and even stained. After all, a good preschool is full of sensory experiences that can be downright messy. The only day that kids should wear fancy clothes is when class photos are taken.
I worked with a loving, dedicated preschool teacher who left the profession because of this very issue. An irate mother threatened to give her the dry cleaning bill because her daughter got a couple spots on her blouse while painting at the easel. At the end of the school year, this longtime educator chose to "hang it up" because of her experience with this unreasonable woman and the parents who stood by silently as she got harangued.
2. Having Their Kids Wear Impractical Shoes
An experienced teacher knows the importance of outdoor time at preschool. When organizing a game of tag, creating obstacle courses with jump ropes and hula hoops, and pretending that they're astronauts while climbing on rocks, kids develop leadership skills and unleash their imaginations. This "free play" empowers them, making them more confident in their abilities to perform physical feats and engage creatively with their peers.
Dr. Peter Gray discusses the enormous value of this in Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. It's a book that I highly recommend to all preschool parents. It explains where we've gone wrong in early childhood education in the US and how we can get back on track.
According to Dr. Gray, kids need long periods of uninterrupted free play and the great outdoors is the ideal venue for it. Unfortunately, some children (mostly girls) miss out on these activities that build self-esteem for one simple reason: impractical shoes. Crocs, sandals, slippers, and boots turn them into spectators, watching from the sidelines. Sadly, too many parents believe that having their kids wear fashionable footwear is more important than playing outside. When they consistently ignore the school's policy on shoes, they make teachers feel frustrated and disrespected.
3. Requesting Special Treatment for Their Kids
An outstanding preschool teacher is always thinking about what's best for the class as a whole. Unlike a parent, she doesn't have a many opportunities to attend to the unique needs of each child because her job is to manage the group. While most moms and dads recognize this reality, there are usually one or two who simply can't accept it. Oblivious to the other children in the class, they routinely request special treatment for their own precious tykes.
One mother, for instance, asked me to microwave her darling daughter's specially-prepared snack each day. She wanted her child to enjoy a warm meal just like she did at home. It didn't matter to her that this would require me to exit the classroom and go to the faculty kitchen, leaving 20 preschoolers with no adult supervision. When I informed her that Mollie would need to eat the apple slices and string cheese just like everyone else, she pouted like a spoiled brat. Moments like these with a clueless parent try a teacher's patience more than anything that the kids say or do.
4. Wanting Kids Prepared for Kindergarten
Kindergarten has become more academic so some parents now expect preschool to be a training ground for it. They want their kids to receive instruction in handwriting, phonics, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). A preschool teacher with a solid background in early childhood education, though, knows that readying little ones for kindergarten is not her mission. Uninformed parents who push for that, though, can give her lots of grief.
A top-notch preschool teacher appreciates that the first five years of life are truly unique and hugely consequential. Therefore, she doesn't see preschool as just another year in a child's long academic journey. Instead, she sees it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to encourage curiosity and instill a love of learning. She knows preschool should develop a youngster's body, mind, and soul through playing, exploring, interacting with peers, and enjoying a wide variety of new experiences. She knows, without a doubt, that the goal of preparing youngsters academically for kindergarten is way too narrow because her aim is to prepare them for life.
5. Arriving Late for Pick-Up
It's understandable that this happens on occasion when parents get stuck in traffic or have a family emergency. It becomes maddening to a teacher, though, when it occurs frequently with no explanation or apology. It shows disregard for her as a professional educator by placing her in the role of babysitter.
When students leave for the day, a teacher's responsibilities don't end. She must clean the classroom, make phone calls to parents, and prepare for the next day. She may be in desperate need of a quiet moment. She may want to use the bathroom or get something to eat. While supervising a youngster who hasn't been picked up, she's prevented from doing these things.
Furthermore, she may need to comfort this youngster since some preschoolers get very sad when their moms or dads aren't there on time. They feel scared and abandoned as their friends get picked up and they're left behind. A teacher must calm their fears and distract them from their worries. When a parent finally breezes in and offers no apology and expresses no appreciation, they make a teacher feel abused.
6. Giving Long, Lingering Goodbyes
Most experienced educators advise moms and dads to offer a short, unemotional goodbye when dropping their child off at preschool. They may suggest that they give a quick kiss, say "have fun," and then walk out the door. Unfortunately, there are always some parents who ignore these instructions and insist on giving long, lingering farewells. They do this to feed their egos, making a big show of how much their child loves them and doesn't want to be away from them. In the process, though, they traumatize their kid, disrupt the class, and annoy the teacher.
These selfish parents set their kid up for misery by planting frightening thoughts in their head at drop-off time. They make comments such as: "Don't worry, honey, it will be okay" or "It will be over soon and then you can be with me!" Naturally, these remarks unsettle a youngster, creating fear and trepidation. As a result, they may cry or cling to their parent. This puts everyone on edge, creating an unnecessarily rough start to the school day.
7. Challenging the Preschool's Philosophy
When parents are searching for a preschool, they have many choices: Montessori, Waldorf, play-based co-ops, and so on. While these places look alike in many ways, their unique philosophy is what separates one from another. It guides how the teacher instructs, how she interacts with the children, and what she values most in a preschool program. Most significantly, a philosophy stands firm and doesn't bend to the latest fads in early childhood education.
Nothing aggravates a teacher more than moms and dads who pick a preschool and then object to its very philosophy. If they want their child to be exclusively with kids who are the same age, Montessori isn't for them. If they want their little one exposed to technology, Waldorf isn't for them. If they want their youngster prepared academically for kindergarten, a play-based co-op isn't for them.
Challenging a school's philosophy is pointless and creates undue grief for the teacher. When selecting a preschool, parents should do their homework and choose carefully. If the philosophy doesn't match theirs, then they need to find a different school instead of battling with the current one.
8. Fretting About Their Kid Being Bullied
Children who torment others have rightfully become a concern in our country with many schools adopting anti-bullying campaigns. It's not surprising, therefore, that some parents fret about their little ones becoming targets at preschool. However, when they have little knowledge of child development and little awareness of what constitutes normal preschool behavior, their excessive worrying can exasperate a teacher. She can get frustrated when they indiscriminately slap the label of "bully" on a youngster who's simply learning how to interact with peers.
Four and 5-year-old children are just beginning to socialize with one another so every interaction is new and challenging. Prior to that, as 2 and 3-year-olds, they were in a stage of development characterized by “parallel play.” During that time, they played adjacent to one another but not with one another. Now, that they are older, they're finding joy in relating to one another. However, their vocabularies and social skills are limited, and this can lead to disagreements and frustrations.
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 encourage them to do so. However, they don't appreciate why it's important in building friendships and behaving politely. Because preschoolers are highly egocentric, their unwillingness to share is normal and shouldn't be interpreted as bullying.
Bullying at school happens when one youngster is methodically picking on another. This kind of cruel and deliberate behavior, though, is not in the nature of preschoolers. When recklessly labeling a preschooler as a bully, parents demonize a child who's simply struggling with social interactions and that's wrong.
In this must-see TED Talk, Dr. Peter Gray explains what preschool parents need to understand about free play and its importance in promoting children's mental and emotional health.
Are you a PPP, problem parent at preschool?
Questions & Answers
Question: How do I better relate with parents?
Answer: This is an outstanding question because, as you know, preschool teachers need to not only successfully relate to their students but their students' parents as well. Today, tech-savvy moms and dads expect to stay connected with their children's teachers through e-mails and texts as well as in-person and on the phone. The number one complaint I hear from parents is that teachers don't reply to their messages. While this places new demands on educators, it's part of the new reality. Having a blog or website with updated information about classroom happenings is another effective way to stay connected, and it reduces the number of texts and e-mails you receive with questions about upcoming field trips, holidays, projects, and special events.
The best way to relate to parents is to behave in a professional manner and know your stuff. Preschool teachers don't get a lot of respect in our society and many moms and dads have no idea how accomplished so many of them are. If preschool teachers want to be seen as trained professionals in their field and not just babysitters, they need to effectively communicate to parents the latest research in early childhood education, brain science, and childhood psychology.
Lastly, when relating with anyone but especially parents of preschoolers, it helps to show empathy. Moms and dads of young children are often overwhelmed, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and frazzled. They need someone to show understanding and kindness. A recent study stated that 1 out of every 40 children in the United States has autism. My son was diagnosed while attending preschool. His teacher was fantastic in the classroom but never acknowledged what I was going through and never showed a drop of compassion. She never did during those three years my son attended her school, and I still remember that after all these years!
© 2018 McKenna Meyers