Next year is my youngest son's last year of preschool. This means that next year will be my last year of preschool. I have three children and have spent nearly a decade as a preschool parent. And -- I have to tell you -- I'm going to miss it. (But not the glitter. I will never miss the glitter.) I'm going to miss preschool because my children's teachers haven't just been teaching my children. They've also been teaching me.
I've learned so much from watching teachers nurture, comfort and -- oh, man -- not yell when I bet they really wanted to. How do they not raise their voices? Have you ever spent an hour with a bunch of 3-year-olds? It's not pretty. There is fighting. There are tantrums. There are fingers up noses and weird coughs and unintelligible requests. There is choosing to not sit on the carpet. There is quiet crying and loud crying and just-regular crying. There are hurt feelings over broken crayons and not being handed a glue stick. There are long boring stories interrupted by other long boring stories. There are spilled drinks and refusals to eat lunch. There are denials of that smell being poop. And there is a lot of missing of Mommy and Daddy.
Not raising their voices is -- of course -- not all that preschool teachers do. (And I guess this is where I say the "good teachers"; and I am lucky because my children have only had "good teachers.") My children's teachers also impressed me with their creativity years before I ever heard of Pinterest, and they knew not to overpraise before knowing not to overpraise was cool.
And what else?
They pay attention. At pickup, the preschool teachers offer tidbits of information that would have gone over my head had I been there: "He only ate half of his yogurt." "He saw a butterfly on the playground." "He told the class that he was going to Hawaii next week." (And, then, you have to explain that you have no plans to go to Hawaii next week, or at all.)
They diagnose. My son's teacher emailed me recently. My son was acting "off." He looked fine to me and had no fever, but I took him to the doctor because she had never before called me during school. Indeed, he was "off." It turned out he had strep.
They create community. It's supposed to take a village; yet, most of us don't live in villages. Preschool classes remind me of little villages. There is something so warm and haimish about a preschool class, and that is because of the invisible, everyday work of the teachers.
They decipher. I often have trouble understanding my own child. I have shuddered thinking he was dropping an F-bomb and it turned out he just wanted a "fork." And, yet, my kiddo's teachers seem to understand him -- and all of his little classmates with their various ways of enunciating and pronouncing -- just fine. These are magical people, I tell you.
They trust and empower. "Who the heck is this child?" I have thought many, many times when I have visited one of my son's preschool classes and watched one of my boys happily cleaning up toys, setting a table or wiping down chairs. And then I start singing a "clean-up song" at home and the only thing that happens is that my kids tell me to stop singing because it hurts their ears.
They have patience and perseverance. I considered becoming a teacher but took a different professional path. And I think I would have been pretty good at it -- but for, like, two days. I think I would have had enough energy and focus and patience for about two days before showing up at school looking like Nick Nolte in his 2002 mugshot. So, to all preschool teachers who have taught for three or more days in a row, my hat is off to you.
Yes, I know that there is still one year left. But I miss preschool already. I might even miss the glitter.
(There's more. Please feel free to comment and tell me what I missed. And to my sons' teachers past and present, thank you.)
This post originally ran on Mammalingo.