“I don’t know how they do it.”
I often hear this phrase when the conversation turns to my previous employment as a preschool teacher, or even just talking about early childhood educators in general. The assumption is that having many children in a single space is more difficult than having just one or two.
It seems like it should be true. We hear stories of how teachers in grade school must conduct class in a certain and often strict manner. Surely teachers in preschool must use some sort of control mechanism to maintain the calm and functional bliss that is demanded by their circumstances?
Baloney! I recently had a group of children and families over for a celebration at my house. We had around 15 children, mostly between the ages of four and five and with a few toddlers in the mix. It was chaos for sure – there is no other way to put it. But, I felt like it was controlled without having to be authoritative. No one had to put the kibosh on anyone’s play. No one got hurt. There may have been a moment of crying or two but situations were resolved peacefully.
It wasn’t until the end of the night when the comment came.
“I don’t know how their teachers do it all day, every day.”
While I didn’t respond, what I wanted to say was, “How do you do it?”
We have to be fair to ourselves, give ourselves credit for the roller coasters, the fits and the fury that we as parents face on a daily basis. Before I had children I used to say that having them would be a piece of cake as I had a ton of knowledge and experience in the classroom. But when I had my first child that thought changed. Why? Because it’s different.
All of those skills I had for the classroom? Some of them apply and some just don’t because being in a classroom is different from being in your own home, with your own children. A child knows who their parents and/or primary caregivers are. They know there is a difference between them and their teachers. They also have the peer/social components of being in a classroom that affects their behavior. I don’t know many families that are composed of fifteen plus children all around the same age.
The environments and routines are different, too. My home is my home and toys go, well, anywhere and everywhere. In the classroom they go someplace specific. Routines are pretty consistent but in a completely different way than at school.
So, the next time I hear someone say, “I don’t know how they do it,” I’m going to say, “Yes, you do.”
Unless they don’t have a child in which case, “Have you ever herded cats? Well, it’s not really like that.”