The New Preschool Teacher’s Survival Guide

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd

Congratulations—you’ve landed your first preschool teaching job! It’s an exciting time, and your dream of having your own preschool classroom has come true. As any preschool teacher will attest, the real learning comes once you’re knee-deep in demanding little ones, finger paints, and story books.

There’s so much to discover and learn—both for you and your students—during this time. But sometimes it helps to have a few sound words of advice under your belt before stepping into your classroom for the first time.

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We’ve assembled a survival guide of preschool teacher tips that are sure to help ease the transition from student to teacher and make your first preschool teaching experience an absolutely fantastic one.

It’s never too early to develop a routine.

Children—especially young children—thrive on consistency, so it’s never too early to develop a routine that they’ll follow daily. Your kids will feel a sense of control, they’ll know what’s expected of them, and you won’t spend your day constantly reminding them what to do and what comes next.

Expect more out of your kids, and they’ll give you more.

Yes, you have the youngest learners under your tutelage, but you’ll quickly find that they’re capable of quite a bit, and showing you what they can do gives them a sense of power and pride.

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One of the best ways to nurture responsibility is to assign small tasks each day—from handing out napkins during snack time to collecting craft supplies. It’ll also help if you organize your classroom in a way that allows your students to know where to put their supplies and toys. Use plastic bins that have the picture of the item and the word affixed to the front of it, so your kids can quickly and easily clean up their messes and hone their matching skills at the same time.

Create an attention-getter.

Preschoolers can easily veer off task and lose attention, so it’s important to have some type of attention-getter that they’ll immediately recognize as a cue to quiet down and pay attention.

It might help to simply stand in the center of the room, clap your hands twice, and raise your hand. And then your kids will raise their hands in return until everyone is quiet and paying attention for your next direction. Some teachers also find it helpful to have a unique call—a whistle, a silly bird sound…whatever works for you.

Flexibility is in, predictability is out…

Lesson plans are a must, but don’t rely on them to get you through your day. A tantrum, a sick tummy, or a bathroom accident are just a few of the reasons why a super-scheduled day isn’t realistic for preschool teachers.

Things can—and often do—happen that’ll throw a wrench in your plans, so always have a backup plan, and then another plan to back up that backup plan. Always have an arsenal of games and activities that you can pull out if your lesson plans go awry. Any seasoned preschool teacher will tell you that your bag of tricks can never be too full.

Take care of yourself—it’s a must.

You’ll be working with kids who have a seemingly endless supply of energy. In addition to wrangling in your kiddos, you’ll be tying their shoelaces, buttoning their coats, helping them in the bathroom, and assisting them with writing, cutting, and pasting. You’ll be calming tantrums, comforting those struggling with parent separation, and doing your best to keep their attention throughout the day.

The bottom line: You have to be on the top of your game at all times. Coming to work on three hours of sleep simply isn’t an option. Eat well. Exercise. Take the time to decompress. In short, take care of yourself so that you’ll be able to take care of your kids.

Let go and have fun.

A preschool classroom is no place for beautiful clothes. You’ll be spending your days wiping little noses, cleaning little mouths, doing crafts, and cleaning up accidents. Think comfort, and wear clothes that you know can clean up easily.

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Get on the floor and get creative. Your kids will watch you like a hawk. If you’re having fun, chances are they will, too.

Get silly. Sing loud, dance your heart out, and smile a lot.

This is your dream job. Enjoy!

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