She’s got a five gallon drum of finger paint and she’s not afraid to use it.
Armed with a veritable arsenal of construction paper, giant pencils, glue sticks, and an industrial sized box of tissue, she deals with children old enough to argue their viewpoint, but young enough to require a spare set of clothes be kept on hand in case of “accidents.” (And not of the spilled milk variety.)
Unsung heroes. Not only is she state-certified in education, but she is well versed in the dispensation of just the precise amount of magic to vanquish boo-boos and homesickness and soothing the savage beast that is a 4-year-old past nap time.
Wielding the power to soothe not only sobbing children, but equally teary-eyed mommies. For all this she will likely never make a million dollars, have her own trading card, or appear in a syndicated television program.
She doesn’t have to. She is a preschool teacher.
As such she holds the hearts of children and parents everywhere, and that is worth more than gold – or most Nike contracts (Tiger Woods excepted).
I think we all agree that the ability to fearlessly face upwards of 40 preschoolers each day is a testament to personal fortitude and unimaginable valor.
I enjoy children as much as the next person, but I’d crack inside of a week. Yet she will smile in the face of a classroom where every third child is named Taylor and no two of them spell it the same.
She remains stalwart when dealing with parents who send children into the world with names like Mykaell and Ashleighye and become annoyed with her personally when their child takes longer to learn to spell it than a classmate named Ann.
It’s been said that if you can read this, thank a teacher. Well, if you know the appropriate use of your “inside voice,” sharing, and waiting your turn: thank a preschool teacher.
Arts and crafts. Not content to wallow in the literary world of “A is for apple,” the intrepid teacher of the preschool set will year in and year out rack her brain to come up with a fresh and exciting craft featuring cast-off paper towel tubes, egg cartons and crepe paper.
She will oversee a “holiday program” without offending anyone’s particular belief system in a classroom as diverse as the United Nations.
She will help tiny hands fashion pilgrim hats out of construction paper using scissors so dull they couldn’t cut water, and coach some 60-plus preschoolers in the proper recitation of “the Peanut Butter song.”
She will handle more felt and craft glue in a week than most of us will in a lifetime.
She will listen to some 16,000,000 recitations of the same knock-knock jokes told by small children since time immemorial, and laugh each and every time.
She will explain gently and with tact why boogers don’t make for polite lunch conversation and “poo-poo head” is not a term of endearment.
She will wipe noses, and tears, and cover for parents who are late for pick-up.
She will assure a weeping child that every mommy prefers clay sculptures when they are cracked down the middle and distinctly blob-shaped – those are the best ones, everyone knows that.
Molding the future. Most importantly, she will take children who are convinced that the world revolves around them, and children who believe that no one much cares for them at all.
She will take nose-pickers, criers, biters, and a host of “average” kids (each of whom has a parent who truly believes that child is gifted) and she will treat them all equally.
Ferret out their strengths, strengthen their weaknesses, and plant the seeds that will – one hopes – carry them gracefully through many ensuing years of education and life.
Granted, it’s a lot to fashion out of craft glue, construction paper and crackers and milk. But with an abundance of heart and patience to spare, if anyone can do it, a preschool teacher can.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt is grateful for the early education that made her what she is today. And holds all involved entirely blameless for same. She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 39, Salem, Ohio 44460.)