Debra Ojeda: My name is Debra and I teach a preschool class for 3-year-olds at Ivy League Learning Center in Overland Park, Kansas. I have been teaching for 15 years. I decided to go into teaching because I love children, and I love watching them learn new things.
DO: I really focus a lot on music and movement. We sing songs about ABC’s and numbers; I’ve found the young children really tend to learn better through music. I also do a lot of encouraging! When the students feel good about themselves, they are willing to learn better, and they do learn better.
DO: The biggest challenge is keeping everyone focused at the same time. It can be very hard, but if you keep it fun and try to be funny and see yourself as a “performer”, the students kind of start to see you on their level, they are much more likely to pay attention. Occasionally I will have almost everyone’s attention, but a few kids will be off in their own world. When this happens, I just specifically focus on them and try to get them to look at their classmates and do the things they are doing. I’ve also found that “transitional” songs are a great way to catch their attention. I do a song where I clap and sing, “I can clap, I can clap, I can clap, and STOP!” Anytime I start that, I can get all the kids to focus. It incorporates the hand movements and singing element I talked about earlier, and that gets them going. When they don’t pay attention to your voice, they will still pay attention to music.
DO: When I first started teaching, I had a little boy with autism. We also had a little girl who had an issue with biting. One day, she bit the little boy. He took his glasses off, then he looked at me and said, “Hold these Ms. Debra, I’m goin in!” He started going after her and I said, “No! No! That’s not how we handle that!” Looking back, it was a really funny scenario, but at the time it totally caught me off guard!
DO: First and foremost, I always greet the parents with a smile and a nice comment in the morning. You never know when they may need to hear something positive on their way to work. I also want them to know their kids are in good hands. I also try to use them as an in-class resource. If we are studying something that a parent can speak to that relates to their job or their culture, I love bringing them in and speaking to the kids from a first hand experience. There can be complications too. But, if there is ever a misunderstanding between them and myself, I try to remind them that I have children too, and I have been in their shoes before. If I can make it more personable, they can relate to what I’m saying a little better.
DO: If you have been teaching for a long time like I have, always remember that it’s ok to try new things. Don’t be afraid to listen to someone else’s advice and hear what they have to say. If you are a new teacher, remember that your day will not always be perfect. Your schedule will not always go the way you want, and that’s ok; don’t let it upset you. You have to be flexible with kids. Something you had planned may not always work, so you just have to go with the flow. And don’t be too hard on yourself; you’re doing this for the kids.