As I walked into the preschool on Friday I could tell something was different. As I made a quick sweep of the room, I spotted the difference: we had a substitute teacher for the day. Immediately my thoughts turned to my own elementary school days, when substitute teachers meant that my classmates would play practical jokes, not get anything done, and generally goof off. Oh boy. Still, after not getting to go to the preschool two Fridays in a row, I couldn’t wait for the kids to arrive.
They started trickling in as usual and I took a spot in the free art corner, one of my favorite spots in the room. The kids get free time in the morning to do different activities around the room and the free art table is where they go to make projects of their own design. It’s always so fun to see what they can create and witness their never ending imagination. Plus, I get to color too! I helped one girl cut out colorful Easter eggs, I listened as one little boy told me about different species of sharks and fish (he even drew the different types out for me, close to 20 different pictures!), and I got a “present” made out of colored tape and smiley faces made by one of the girls as she happily told me about her life.
Everything was going smoothly until one of the boys ran up to me and whispered excitedly in my ear, “Our teacher isn’t here today!”
“You’re right!” I said, “but we have a substitute teacher for today.”
He gave me a mischievous grin and replied, “Yeah but she’s not our real teacher. We don’t have to listen to her!” With that last comment, he ran off to play with his buddies. That couldn’t be a good sign.
Circle time came next and it quickly became clear that the kids had no intention of behaving. It started with just a few of the boys, but the mischievous energy quickly infected the whole group. Before long it seemed as if none of them wanted to pay attention or sit still. I don’t think that I ever realized exactly how challenging it is to be a teacher. Effectively controlling, inspiring, teaching, and loving a group of five year olds every day is an enormous task! It definitely made me appreciate the effort (and patience) that she and my teachers put in every day to make our education possible and fun.
We struggled to make it through the lesson that day and moved on to snack time. As the kids’ energy grew, it seemed impossible that we would make it through the day. But then one of kids asked me to read a story in the reading corner. It was just the two of us, but soon other kids started coming up and listening too. They sat on my lap, around my feet, and draped themselves over my shoulders so they could see and listen too. It was amazing what a story could do. They were actually quiet and listening! The noise level came down a few decibels and we were all able to finally enjoy a peaceful moment.
Of course, as soon as the word “playground” was mentioned, they became their normal, energetic selves and soon I was running around outside playing freeze tag. I like it this way, though. There is this great balance between seriousness and fun that makes pre-school so perfect. You get to just be a kid. And of course there will be those days where nothing seems to get done or go just right. But that’s what makes the good moments, like reading a book or coloring Easter eggs or learning about sharks, so special. And it’s moments like those that really stick with you.