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Career Story: Integrated Pre-School Teacher

Integrated Pre-School and Special Education Teacher

Job Title: Integrated Pre-School Teacher

Type of Company: I work for a school district in Massachusetts.

Education: BA, Elementary Education, Rollins College (Winter Park, FL) •• MA, Education, Cambridge College (Cambridge, MA)

Previous Experience: I started part-time as a kindergarten teacher and then after two years switched to pre-school.

Job Tasks: My day is mostly spent teaching and playing with children ages 3-5. I teach 180 days a year. I have 15 students; about 50% of them have special needs. There is a lot of work that goes into planning for a day with the children. I have to use a specific curriculum, create lesson plans, modify the curriculum so that all the children can access it, and make sure all the supplies and materials are ready to go. I also have to keep the classroom clean, safe, and healthy.

There are many other aspects of my job that may not be as obvious. Weekly I meet with my pre-school colleagues to discuss the next week's activities, and I also meet with the special education coordinator weekly to ensure all special education requirements are being met. I talk with parents daily and meet with them formally two times a year. This gives the parents an opportunity to discuss their children's progress with me in a one-on-one setting.

Assessing the children is also a large part of what I do. I send out report cards and special education reports twice a year. We also do a portfolio assessment with each child. This is a collection of the children's work that we work on all year long. I take a lot of digital photographs of the children to document their growth. I spend about an hour a week making sure that those photos are organized.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is definitely working and playing with the children. It is fun and fulfilling. I also enjoy the creative aspect of my job. I love to develop activities and watch the kids create them. Working with my colleagues is another wonderful aspect.

The worst part of my job is the paperwork connected to the special education process. I also do not enjoy all the meetings we have to go to. I feel as though these two things really take away from my planning and time with kids. Another negative aspect is the pay.

Job Tips: If you are interested in education, my advice is to do as much as possible with children so you can decide what aspects and age children you like the best. Try substitute teaching, working at day camps, working or volunteering with before and after-school programs. Also, I would think outside the box. Occupational therapists, speech therapists, and play therapists are in great demand. These are careers that can be a little more flexible than teaching and you often get to work with children one-on-one or in small groups.

Additional Thoughts: This is good career match for people who love children, are creative, patient, and have good people skills. In most public schools you are now required to have your Master's degree, so looking at a five-year college program that enables you to graduate with you Master's is a good choice. The biggest misconception about my job is that "all I do is play". Although play is a big part of my day, I do a lot more than that. Young children learn through play, so play activities have to be planned out appropriately and assessed.

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