What Does a Preschool Teacher Know?

Previously, this blog has discussed the qualifications that someone wishing to do professional infant care, or to teach preschool or nursery school must have, including their formal education and various training certificates. However, most people know that certifications and coursework are of little value without related experience. Preschool, Nursery School, and Pre-Kindergarten teachers have unique experience with these niche age groups. Most parents have experienced what it’s like to have one or two, sometimes more than two toddlers or young children in their homes, but teachers (and their assistants) get to experience up to twenty children per day in their classroom, and learn to recognize patterns, tendencies, and other little things most folks may not notice over the years. Studying the childhood development theories of Jean Piaget or Maria Montessori is helpful, but real-life classroom experience illuminates what one hundred year old texts cannot. Here are just a few lessons from in-the-field work:

  • We know that when a child who always has seconds and third helpings at snack time suddenly doesn’t want any at all, something is wrong.
  • We know when a child who is always in motion is suddenly clingy and static, something is wrong.
  • We know what shows they watch at home and what video games they play. They often pretend to be their favorite characters all day long.
  • We know that an ice cube in a plastic baggie or a bandage can fix just about everything, even hurt feelings. If they can’t, it’s a real injury.
  • We know when a child who was potty trained is having accidents again, something is going on. Sometimes major life changes, sometimes illness, sometimes stress.
  • We know a lot more about personal family details than parents probably want us to know, and not because we ask, but because kids blurt out things like, “my dad picks his nose on the toilet!” all the time.
  • We know their favorite toys and games. Looking for an idea for your child’s birthday? Ask their teacher.
  • We know which of their lunch items they love, and which ones get passed to friends or thrown away. Ask us, and waste less money on food they don’t want or eat!
  • We know that little ones still don’t know fantasy from reality. When they put on the dinosaur costume, they really are a dinosaur. They think cartoon characters are real, they think monsters are real. Saying that they are not real doesn’t really help.
  • We see very early on which children learn by listening, which by watching and imitating, and which children learn by doing, making mistakes, and doing again. Most children are a mix of learning styles.

We certainly do not know everything, and there are always exceptions and surprises. One year’s wallflower may unexpectedly become next year’s class leader. The child who liked blocks obsessively one year might suddenly leave the blocks behind and be just as obsessed with artwork later. Kids grow and change! It is fascinating to watch the process happen. Each new twist and turn adds to our experience and early educators are always learning as a part of our profession. New parents consider their child care or preschool teacher as a source of a broad range of child development experiences; norms, and development milestones, and we are happy to share our insights and experiences with you.

This article is part of a child health and wellness series posted for the benefit of parents by Prime Time Early Learning Centers. Prime Time is a family owned child care company that provides Infant Care, After Care, PreK, and Summer Camp programs for children from six weeks to 10 years of age in Paramus, Edgewater, Hoboken and East Rutherford New Jersey, and in Middletown (Walkill) and Farmingdale (Babylon) New York. See what parents have to say about their experience with Prime Time Early Learning Centers on Google and Yelp!