“The only difference between teaching 8th graders and preschoolers is the height. Everything else is about the same.”
I start out each year with my pre-kindergarten parents with this same line. My experience in teaching is varied, but most of my public school educational experience is from teaching junior high – 8th grade. And, with each class I teach in the preschool age, I notice there isn’t THAT much difference. See if you agree:
1. LANGUAGE ACQUISITION: If you were to sit in my pre-k classroom and listen to the conversations that happen in a 20 minute time period, you would hear plenty of “original” words, mispronounciations, and horrible sentence structure. You might even hear a “dirty” word every now and then (immediately redirected by me – at this age, they really don’t know what they’re saying). That’s how kids learn – by trying out new things. And, in my junior high class, it was much the same, even if it was more intentional. The “duhs” and “phats” and incomplete sentences – yep, all part of being 13 and 14 and learning to communicate.
2. SPEED: Four-year olds know two speeds: fast and crash. My boys especially were either running around the room or crashing into tables/easels/each other. It is just how they are. And, getting into wide open spaces makes it more manageable, but it is still run and crash. It is much the same at the 7th and 8th grade level – adolescents are constantly running through the halls, running through the cafeteria, and as much as you tell them to SLOW DOWN, they continue to do so until they crash into a locker/door/desk/each other. And again, it is usually the boys.
3. THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER: One of the hardest parts about teaching 4′s is the girls. Come February, we start the “you’re not my friend - today” game. It is one of my least favorite parts of my job. Girls don’t realize how much it hurts to hear those words, even when they have been said to themselves. And, in 8th grade, many a girl-fight begins with the same attitude – you’re not my friend and I’m going to show you how I feel about you.
4. GIMME SOME LOVIN’: The bright side to pre-k kids is the love they show. Oh, they may act tough, but they flash that smile or color a picture for you. They pick flowers on the playground and notice when you get your hair cut. And, 8th graders aren’t much different. They don’t WANT to like you – you are the teacher. But, they leave you notes on your desk, wave to you across the cafeteria, or say hi to you at the football game.
What goes around comes around. Growing up is one big circle. We just travel it several times as we learn a bit more about what makes the world right. Teaching junior high all those years did wonders to prepare me for being a preschool teacher – and a parent. The only difference is the size of the package!