9 Signs You Should be Teaching Preschool

  • January 4, 2016

You love being with children. You have thought about turning that love into a career, but you’re not sure if your passion is strong enough to make going back to school worth the time, effort and resources.

Teaching preschool requires a combination of education, experience and certain intangible traits. While education and experience will come with time and hard work, you may already have some or all of the necessary traits to become a preschool teacher.

We highlighted nine traits that might help you figure out if teaching is the right career track for you. And while a U.S. News & World Report career profile for preschool teachers considers a bachelor’s degree a teacher’s “best weapon” for career success, the profile also highlights other traits like communication skills and nurturing.

Qualities you need to succeed as a preschool teacher
1. You’re patient … really patient

Anyone who has spent more than five minutes with a child knows that patience is one of the most important qualities you can have. If you have your own children, you understand this better than most!

Deborah J. Stewart, who owns a private preschool and runs the website TeachPreschool.org, emphasizes the importance of setting expectations so that students can be confident in the classroom. She writes in her classroom management blog post that a preschool teacher must consistently remind students of these expectations to ensure this confidence.

Children thrive when they have a compassionate hand guiding them in the right direction.

Children need to be reminded multiple times how to do something, when to do it, or not to do it at all. They talk and ask questions at the most inconvenient moments. As a teacher, you would have to manage and instruct a whole classroom of children.

2. You don’t know the meaning of ‘too enthusiastic’

Are you balancing work, family and friends, in addition to thinking about going back to school? Are you managing it all cheerfully? Are you the one people call for help—not because you aren’t busy, but because you meet tasks with enthusiasm? Are coworkers appreciative of your energy and employers of your spirit?

Preschool teachers maintain a positive learning environment by being enthusiastic about kids, about learning, and about teaching. Children can tell when someone is not engaged with them, so preschool teachers need to be ready every day to meet students with the same energy level as a kid.

3. You believe in & encourage others

Do you understand the strength of a supportive word right when it is needed most—like urging a friend to go after a promotion or leaving a supportive note for a coworker?

Teaching preschool requires those same encouraging traits. Children thrive when they have a compassionate hand guiding them in the right direction. Why become a preschool teacher? Because the teacher’s reward is the same as any parent’s—seeing a child take a deep breath and dive into something new and different.

4. You love to create

Have you devoted hours to the perfect decorating scheme of your child’s room? Do you love projects where you can take the lead creatively?

Preschool and kindergarten teachers help children build up their ability to concentrate for long periods. Most preschoolers have an attention span no longer than 15 minutes. But, turning something potentially boring into something fun can increase a student’s attention span astronomically.

This means preschool teachers have to have a lot in their arsenal to keep kids engaged and learning. A preschool teacher has to provide many different learning activities, and have backup plans for their backup plans. While some may think of this as a burden, creative people can take this opportunity to shine by finding new ways to combine fun and learning.

Preschool teachers need to be able to balance the needs of parents and children. That means listening to input and including or informing parents of decisions, changes and problems.

5. You understand the needs of both parents & children

No matter what job you have, you will always have to work with others. When you have disagreements at work or home, are you the mediator? Do you try to understand both sides of the story before making up your mind?

While teaching preschool you will have coworkers and bosses, but you will also have to engage with parents. More than any other kind of customer, parents have a particularly strong interest in your work.

Preschool teachers need to be able to balance the needs of parents and children. That means listening to input and including or informing parents of decisions, changes and problems. This trait is also mentioned in the preschool teacher profile. The profile notes preschool teachers must prepare both students and parents for future schooling.

As a parent, have you felt concerned about who you leave your child with? Then you understand the concerns of the parents whose children are in your care, and the importance of connecting with them.

6. You are a stickler for organization

Are you always organizing and reorganizing your files? Or maybe you are the one running the show at home, arranging the busy schedules of yourself, your partner, and your children.

Preschool teachers need to be able to find balance in order to make progress in the curriculum. They do this by having strong classroom management skills. Preschool is not a playpen. Children need to have this structure supplied by someone who knows how to handle lots of moving parts.

7. You know when to be flexible

Another important aspect of classroom management is to know when to be unstructured. Preschool is not like the formal schooling children will receive later on.

A classroom needs to be structured, but not to the extent of an office. The environment should be loosely structured so that kids can play and learn. Teachers must be flexible so that children can be given choices to expand their horizons.

There are challenges to working with kids, and dedication helps teachers get through bad days as well as good ones.

Do you love when your days are mapped out, but not hemming you in? Are you the first to deviate from a plan when something exciting comes along? This flexibility will serve you well in the classroom.

8. You understand the challenges

Be it babysitting, volunteering, having younger siblings or children of your own, you have experience with children. That means you understand not just the rewards but also the challenges that come with working with kids.

Preschool Gems author Leslie McCollom points out that building a routine is important, but that, when you’re talking about a preschool, no day is exactly like the one before. Just like when you have days where it seems nothing you say makes it into your child’s head, so too do preschool teachers have days where nothing seems to go smoothly.

Even though you will need further schooling to become a teacher, the experience you have now already allows you to look critically at this career. Understanding these challenges will help prepare you to meet them in the future.

9. You are dedicated no matter what

Your commitment to work and family has paid off in the past and you probably know that you reap the rewards when you throw yourself into something.

Preschool teachers are committed to kids. They want their students to grow under their care and are rewarded every day as students learn. There are challenges to working with kids, and dedication helps teachers get through bad days as well as good ones.

The biggest takeaway

If you found yourself nodding along while reading because you saw yourself in these traits, that’s great! You may be ready to enjoy yourself teaching preschool. 

If only some of the traits resonated, do not worry. A teacher doesn’t have to possess every single one of these qualities from their first day. Becoming a great preschool teacher is a process. Think of these traits as a jumping-off point for you, a first step on the road toward formal education.

If you are still unsure, seek out opportunities to talk to current teachers about how they felt when they were just starting out. Try to talk to a variety of teachers—recently graduated teachers can tell you about their schooling and job placement, while experienced teachers, like Stewart, can tell you about the rewards and challenges of a long-term teaching career.

Interested in learning more? See what you can do with an ECE degree.

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