Teacher Interview: The Lighter Side of Preschool Education
Co-founder, Jen’s Community at Wildcliff
Early childhood can be one of the most rewarding age groups to teach. Of course, the mere thought of a classroom full of noisy, boisterous 3- and 4-year-olds is enough to send some people running for the hills. After all, preschool education requires vast reserves of patience, ample creativity, and great communication and instructional skills. Moreover, it’s just plain hard work. But if you maintain a sense of humor, it can also be surprisingly fun—emphasis on the word “surprise.”
Kerrilee Hunter, a preschool teacher from Bronxville, New York, says, “As a teacher, you plan and plan and plan some more, bringing materials and activities to the classroom that you think the children will enjoy which simultaneously meet their developmental needs. Then the children show up, and whatever you’ve planned becomes just a percentage of what you actually end up doing.”
Hunter, who holds a Master’s in Education, has been teaching in the field since 2007, and spent three years as a lead teacher before becoming the co-founder of a nature-based preschool, Jen’s Community at Wildcliff. “I love throwing all of my plans out the window,” she says. “I love being surprised by what they invent and imagine.”
Everyday Humor on the Job
Maintaining enjoyment of the playful and funny moments during a typical day in the classroom can really brighten a teacher’s day, and help them get through the difficult times, too. And, kids being kids, there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in a preschool education career.
Hunter says she loves it whenever a preschool student starts singing pop songs. “They know all the words and they just go for it,” she says. “It’s hilarious to me every time a 3- or 4-year-old busts out, ‘Somebody call 9-1-1! Shawty fire burning on the dance floor,’ or ‘We gon’ rock this club, we gon’ rock all night, we gon’ light it up, like it’s dynamite!’”
Another one of her favorite moments occurred after their school’s annual visit from the cider press. They had a lot of apple cider left over, so her class decided to make apple cider vinegar. “We had done ‘volcanoes’ before with baking soda and vinegar, and I explained that we were going to turn the cider…into a different kind of liquid that would be like the volcano ingredient. One of the boys interrupted me: ‘Ms. Hunter, did you know that I make beer?’ Turns out his family makes their own wine and beer, and though of course he hadn’t sampled it, he had seen the fermentation process I was describing in class and made the connection!”
Hunter finds moments like this particularly rewarding—when kids’ ideas mesh well with her goals for the classroom, and the curriculum really resonates with them.
Taking That First Step into the Classroom
For those who are still unsure whether preschool education is the right career, remember that it’s a team effort. Having the support of families, your fellow teachers, and the staff and principal of the school will help you nurture and develop each child’s educational potential.
“Chances are, if you’re thinking of becoming a teacher, you care about children, but your caring doesn’t end there,” Hunter says. “Behind every child is a whole community.”
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Preschool Teachers; “Teaching Our Youngest: A Guide for Preschool Teachers and Child Care and Family Providers,” U.S. Department of Education.