Two months — that’s how long I’ve been working as a preschool teacher.

The title is in reference to a post I wrote earlier this year. My New Year’s resolution was to appreciate all my inevitable mistakes as the ingredients for becoming a wiser person. Just as I’d hoped (and feared!), these first months of teaching have offered all kinds of opportunities to live out my plan.

Here are some snippets I’ve learned from mistakes at my new job. By the way, I will always use fake names when talking about students.

  1. Don’t queue songs on my Spotify playlist.

    This happened during nap time one day. I put on a calming kid-friendly playlist, and one song later, a non kid-friendly song blared from my phone. It could have been worse. At least there were no inappropriate lyrics.

    However, hearing a song that definitely did not belong on the “Disney Piano Covers” playlist sent a jolt of adrenaline through my body. I hurried across the classroom to my phone and pressed the skip button, but not before all the children were howling with laughter from their cots.

  2. Always leave my purse in the cupboard.

    The school’s primary focus is inclusion, so we teach children with many different abilities. One student, Laura, had a one-on-one aide until recently. Although she is gaining independence, she still needs close supervision. One day I returned from my lunch break and made a detour to the playground. I planned to put my purse back in the cupboard where teachers keep their stuff, but I got sidetracked and I left my purse out on the table.

    A few minutes later, another teacher approached me with worry on her face. She was holding a tube of chapstick. “Laura got into your purse and she had this in your mouth!” I felt a wave of alarm and anger at my carelessness. Fortunately, once I inspected the tube I realized there was not much missing. I think she ingested hardly any. But lesson learned: keep my personal items far away from curious children!

  3. Talk way less during meltdowns.

    There’s one child, Sonny, who we say: “is challenged with emotional regulation during transitions” which is teacher code for “he might freak the F out anytime anything changes.” And by freak out, I mean jumping on tables, throwing chairs, kicking, hitting, spitting, biting. And sprinting. I got quite a cardio workout once when he bolted through the classroom doors.

    I have positive interactions with Sonny every day. It’s usually easy to have a conversation with him and he often asks random questions that give insight to his intelligence. He gets hyper fixated on art projects. He loves showing off his skills on the monkey bars. But all that can melt away the instant something triggers him.

    On several occasions I tried to handle Sonny’s meltdowns by talking. Trying to rationalize, explain, appease him with my words while pinning him down as gently as possible. He would wrestle out of my grasp and I would chase him again, then breathlessly say, “Let’s try counting to ten” as he screamed. I felt my blood pressure rising to the ceiling as I talked and talked. The cycle would repeat until another teacher intervened.

    Last week I tried a different approach. When Sonny had a meltdown, I said nothing and simply sat on the floor with him, holding him in place. When he started slapping and scratching his face, I hugged his arms more firmly and quietly said, “I am helping your body be safe right now.” I focused on using the power of a soothing touch. I could feel how tense his muscles were and how anxiety seemed to radiate from his small body. Although he was howling in my ear, I felt calm.

    Once the screams became sniffles, I began to talk softly to myself. “I wonder how many blue things I can see from here… one, two, three…” Eventually Sonny began to reengage with my words and we could start making a plan together for how to reenter the classroom.

As I wrote #3, I noticed how the mistake became the segway to subsequent success. I could sit back and let other teachers deal with Sonny, or I could be okay with making a fool of myself while I figure out what to do. There’s no way to improve without messing up somewhere along the way.

The more I find my footing in the field of early childhood education, the more I come to the conclusion I really like it here. And it seems guaranteed that I will never get a day off from learning.

21 thoughts on “Update on my year of mistakes

  1. it sounds like you are learning quickly and there are so many lessons we learn from the children. I’m a pre-k educator as well, and continue after years of it, to learn something from them every day. well done

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There are not enough words to describe how much I love this post! I love how insightful you are about the kids and their strengths as well as areas of improvement. And I love how committed you are. And I love that you are leaning in to learning every day! Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! Your words put a smile on my face! I have a very long way to go before I’ll feel like a confident teacher, but at least I can end each day with a bit more knowledge than the day before.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If we could all be as naturally gifted at understanding and communicating with children like you, the world would be a nicer place! Two months and you’ve already accomplished so much! Your third example, in particular, is very impressive! You’re at the right job- those kids need you just as much as you need them! Insight is a powerful thing 🧡

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the kind words Tamara! Well, I don’t think I’m naturally gifted by any means but fortunately I have excellent teachers to learn from.

      Like

  4. Congrats on your 2 months as a preschool teacher, Lizi.

    What an accomplishment and what important and foundational work that you are doing!

    Mistakes are inevitable in life and it sounds like you embracing them to grow even more as a teacher. Great attitude!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Ab!
      I’m very grateful to be surrounded by professionals who care a lot about education and have been in the field a long time. I know I’d be struggling if I didn’t have great examples to look to.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your stories and wish you will share more. I just love real life stories sooooo much. And your third story especially rings a bell. Once I met a family who came for some language service, and their son was such a character. He’s a teenager and he would occasionally let out a howling that’s almost like a coyote or a wolf. I know the adjustment to an all English environment is difficult for anybody and tried my best to be calm and accommodating. Everybody else seems to be willing to endure and ride out and overcome. However this boy was not able to handle it. When he couldn’t understand what’s put in front of him, he would scream and cry like mad. One month later, I am happy to say the family was attracted away by our competitor and I let out a big sigh of relief.

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    1. I feel bad I am responding to you just now. I felt overwhelmed and I took a break from blogging, but it always seems to pull me back in. 🙂 That experience you had sounds challenging, that’s usually the kind of behavior I would expect from a preschool child, not a teenager. His parents must have oceans of patience. I think it’s harder to be patient when we don’t know the full picture of why a person is having those behaviors, and what are the strategies to help them. Also from the education perspective, a person cannot really learn new material until they are emotionally regulated and (at least somewhat) calm!

      Thank you for sharing the story.

      Like

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