Preschool Teachers

We asked Chicago: Is there enough access to early childhood education?

The No Small Matter team recently hit the streets in our hometown of Chicago to ask everyday folks — including some educators and parents of preschool-aged kids: do enough families have good access to daycare and preschool?

Watch this quick video to hear what Chicagoans had to say - and let us know in the comments if you've had your own struggles to access childcare and preschool where you live.

Candy Candy Candy

Trick-or-treating is a scary good time….but you know what would make it better? Turning the sweet candy haul into a fun math lesson!! 

The Best-Ever Books for Preschool Rug Time

Reading to children is one of my favorite parts of being a teacher. Nothing is better than 20 captivated little ones listening intensely to a story. When we read to kids amazing things are happening. They learn language, sequencing, comprehension, logical thinking — basically the list goes on and on. However, if the story flops (and we’ve all been there) the kids take nothing away and you are left frustrated. 

To start, a quick video of my top ten favorite rug time books.

And now, after putting out feelers to the teaching community, I offer you more rug time books that are guaranteed to keep our little ones engaged! These are in no particular order. Enjoy!

Little Nino’s Pizzeria - by Karen Barbour

Art and Max - by David Wiesner

13 Words - by Lemony Snicket

Fortunately – by Remy Charlip

The Mixed Up Chameleon – by Eric Carle

The Gruffalo – by Julia Donaldson

Ain’t Gonna Paint No More – by Karen Beaumont

Quick as a Cricket – by Audrey Wood

One Hungry Monster – by Susan Heyboer

A Soup Opera – by Jim Gill

The Jazz Fly – by Matthew Gollub

Please, Mr. Panda – by Steve Antony

The Day the Crayons Quit – by Drew Daywalt

The Very Busy Spider – by Eric Carle

Little Blue Truck – by Alice Schertle

The Dot – by Peter H. Reynolds

Skippyjon Jones – by Judith Schachner

The Paper Bag Princess – by Robert Munsch

And my personal favorite…….. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – by Mem Fox

Warning: Grab a box of tissues

If I missed your personal favorite don’t forget to include it in the comments below... because amazing rug times are No Small Matter.

Teaching While Tattooed

Photo/Christopher DIlts

Photo/Christopher DIlts

I have tattoos. A lot of tattoos. While I have always taught my students to not "judge a book by its cover", looking at me sleeveless you might assume I was a hooligan, a vagabond, anything but than a preschool teacher. When I first started teaching I covered my art. I was afraid of being seen in a different light, criticized, and worse, my ability to educate a child put in into question. I remember the first time a parent saw my art slip out from under my sleeve. I could see the internal conflict in her eyes. Judge this woman who her child raves about, or accept the idea that a “Ms. Honey” may be rocking a full sleeve? After a moment she stared into my eyes and whispered, “I’ve always wanted a tattoo.” From that moment I decided I was going to embrace my decision to adorn my body and show off my tattoos. Little did I know the decision to show off my art would lead to one of my favorite classroom explorations ever.

With sleeves rolled up I felt like I entered the classroom for the first time. I was nervous, not so much about the parents, but about what the kids would say. Quickly, my tattoos became a topic at rug time. “Are those tattoos?” “Will they wash off?” “Did you draw those this morning?” “How did they do that?” “Did it hurt?” The children’s interest in my art didn’t stop there. As a progressive classroom, the children’s play was the driving force in our theme of study. Much to my surprise the children began to play "tattoo shop". Not wanting to pass up the richness of this topic, we dove in. (Keep in mind the parents were completely aware of this new exploration, and to my pleasant surprise were really excited! ) If one student decided to get a tattoo, they needed a good reason why and they were required to do the art themselves or “pay” an artist for their work. Their desired art and motivation was then pinned on a wall in the “tattoo shop”, aka the loft. After a day the child was asked again if they wanted to still get the tattoo or make changes. With the day-long waiting period passed, the art would be transferred onto a sheet of temporary tattoo paper and applied. During that rug they would tell the rest of the class about their tattoo and the meaning behind it. The tattoo limit was one a week. It was amazing. The children took great pride in their art. They excitedly showed it off at recess, and spoke endlessly about their ink to anyone who listened.

I learned so much about my children that year. While, I’ve been close to all my classes, this particular group was different. Through their art I discovered what they valued, what experiences resonated with them, the beauty they found in the world. It was truly inspiring. They made me think about the purpose of my own tattoos. Why did I get them? If forced to have a day waiting period would I have still gotten them? What do they say about me and what I value?

My tattoos tell my story — my adventures, my success and failures, moments of healing, of courage and strength. They are a part of me and I will never cover them up again. 



Why You Should Try Cross-Curricular Teaching

How does cross curricular teaching work in an early childhood classroom? Students from Columbia College Chicago produced this video at a YMCA preschool exploring how teaching across subjects works for early learners, and why it's important for building school readiness. 

When children learn out in the world, they use all their senses, so why not put all five senses to work in the classroom too? Cross-curricular teaching creates a connection between all subjects through a common theme, giving kids an opportunity to learn multiple subjects without even realizing it.

For example, in a cross-curricular lesson plan, there might be a letter of the week -- let's say, "I" for "insect." Children would count the body parts, legs, and antennae of different insects to learn math skills. For vocabulary, they would learn the names of the body parts. Then for art, they would get creative making their own bugs.

Cross-curricular teaching ties all the subjects together, and makes it easier to learn through repetition. It's one more method for you to try out with your little learners, at home or in the classroom.

6 Things You Should Never Say to a Preschool Teacher

Rachel shares six things you should never say to a preschool teacher - watch for a fun look at the life of an early childhood educator.

Does your babysitter create curriculum? Does your babysitter take anecdotal notes about your child’s play and then develop full themes based on it?
— Rachel Giannini

Do preschool teachers need a degree? Aren’t they just a glorified babysitter? Isn’t it nice having the summer off? These are just a few questions preschool teachers get all the time.

Preschool teachers shape the country’s future. They can take care of 19 kids at once. They may or may not have their own kids, and probably juggle another job. You might have a lot of great questions you've always wanted to ask a preschool teacher -- and you should! --  but here are 6 questions to avoid:

  • Do you need a degree to do this?
  • You're basically a babysitter, right?
  • If you love kids so much, why don't you have any of your own?
  • It must be really nice to have the summer off...
  • If you really cared about kids, you wouldn't care about the salary. 
  • Doesn't it get tiring watching kids all day?

Early childhood educators, keep the conversation going. What questions do you get about teaching that really grind your gears? Tell us in the comments section below.