Working at a preschool is easily one of the biggest blessings in my life. The teacher I assist and I have had numerous conversations that extol the positives of having this exact job, and often the conversation ends with one of us saying, “There just cannot possibly be a better job, can there?”
My preschool ‘work history’ includes being a volunteer parent aide in its very first year, then a teacher’s aide for a couple years, a co-teacher for a couple years, and then taking a break for a few years to substitute teach at the public school and start my Kindermusik venture. There were two wonderful preschool aides that worked there in the meantime. When the job opened up again in October, I did not hesitate to tell the director and teacher that I was interested in coming back if they would have me!
What brought me back? Oh, among other things: the opportunity to watch the preschoolers grow, the opportunity to see their excitement when they are identifying letters and correctly forming their sounds, the opportunity to see how an art project done by 26 different children with one example can have 26 different variations because this standardized world hasn’t yet squashed their creativity, the opportunity to see them rally around a fellow preschooler when one of them is sad, the opportunity to see them so easily forgive each other when their classmate reacts in an ‘oops, I shouldn’t have done that’ manner, the opportunity to teach them some Christian fundamentals in a Christian preschool, such as Jesus loving them no matter what, and the opportunity to have conversations like the following on an almost-daily basis:
“Miss Gwen, I have terrible news!” “Oh no! What is it? “My mom lost the back to her earring!!!” (Exclamation points to infinity if I was to tell you how distraught this 4-year old sounded.) She also happens to be one of the little sweethearts that answered our end-of-the-school-year question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with the very serious answer: “a princess.” In her defense, I would imagine that earrings are a pretty serious accessory in the royalty world. Moments like that are infinite and priceless and they brought this wayward preschool aide back to her previous job.
Are there challenges? Yes. It’s not all lollipops and rainbows…although lollipops and rainbows both have their place in preschool…but yes, there are difficult moments. Moments of, ‘No, that is not okay to treat your friend like that’ talks. Moments of seeing their frustration when things aren’t going the way they had hoped and moments when they just plain miss Mom or Dad and our hug doesn’t quite cut it. Moments like that are difficult. And I am sometimes exhausted, because it’s non-stop activity and bustle and hum and controlled chaos. To be honest, there have been times at the end of the week, I’ve come home, put my feet up, and fallen asleep by 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Just this last week, there was the adorable little girl that couldn’t figure out how old her mom was for our Mother’s Day gift they were making. We were having them make their best guess if they didn’t know. When she struggled to come up with an answer, I said, “Well, I’m 44…how old do you think your mom might be?” “24” was her immediate answer. I happen to know that her mom is 43. If I look 20 years older than her mom, I guess I’m going to blame my hectic preschool schedule for the toll it’s taken on my appearance. 😀
Earlier in this school year, I was experiencing some rather tough stuff. Most people have no inkling, as I was pretty private about it, but my eyes were wet with tears when I got to work, and tears were shed on the way home, (seriously, I admit I’m a crier, but it was an above-and-beyond-ridiculous amount of crying, even for me.) But the in-between time? When I was surrounded by cuter-than-cute 3 and 4 and 5 year-olds? No tears. Only smiles and belly laughs. No thoughts of what my mind was going to wander back to when “work” was over. The preschoolers made me forget, if only for a while, but they truly made me forget. I don’t have to be going through trauma to realize just how precious these God-given children are or how God-given this precious job is!
How God Got Me Through a Mess is a potential title for another blog, but I believe being employed at the preschool at this exact time in my life was part of His divine plan for ‘getting me through’. I really do.
It doesn’t hurt that the teacher I assist and our preschool director both happen to be women that I would put on my “women whose faith and parenting and teaching skills I most admire” list and that they’re also two of my…what’s the 44-year old term for BFFs? Oh, let’s just call them BFFs. It doesn’t hurt that one of the students is one of my nephews, and every time he calls me “Auntie Gwen” my heart melts. It doesn’t hurt that being called Miss Gwen by my non-nephew preschoolers also melts my heart. It doesn’t hurt that I get to spend time with children who still have their child-like faith intact and that haven’t been jaded by difficult circumstances or unanswered prayers. It doesn’t hurt that we rarely have a day without at least one hug from a preschooler for seemingly no reason at all. It doesn’t hurt that with the 3 to 5 year-old population, we sometimes enjoy celebrity status when they see us uptown or at a football game…they are actually pretty pumped that we are in the same place! But even without all those perks, I believe I’d still be there. Because there just cannot possibly be a better job, can there? Thank you, God.