Career Story: Integrated Pre-School Teacher

Integrated Pre-School Teacher

Job Title: Teacher

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

Education: BS, Early Childhood Education •• M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction

Previous Experience: I started as a paraprofessional working with young children with special needs. After spending a year doing that, I applied for a position as a first grade teacher. I taught first grade for four years before switching to a position as an integrated pre-school teacher.

Job Tasks: As an integrated pre-school teacher, I have many responsibilities. I need to carefully design my classroom space to meet the needs of my students, taking into consideration their physical requirements and their ages and abilities. The classroom should be a space that is inviting, cheerful, and interesting to children without being overwhelming. Student safety is very important as well. The environment needs to be safe for the children, and as a teacher I have to be vigilant while they are in my care.

I am responsible for planning fun and interesting lessons and activities for the class that will help them grow and develop physically, emotionally and cognitively while meeting the state standards for learning. I need to prepare materials for the lessons I plan, and do research to find new and innovative approaches and activities to keep learning fresh and exciting for my students. I also need to assess each child's progress and adapt my lessons to ensure student success. I work with the special education teachers and therapists to meet the goals of children who require Individual Education Plans.

I have to meet with parents regularly and keep open communication with families while maintaining student and family confidentiality. I write monthly newsletters to keep the parents informed about what we are working on in the classroom, speak with them at drop-off and pick-up times, attend special education team meetings, maintain communication notebooks with students who require them and write frequent notes to families about their children's progress and behavior in school. I work closely with my colleagues to develop curriculum and assessments, participate in school-wide community events, and maintain a certain level of professionalism both at school and when I'm out in the community.

Teaching is an enormous responsibility. I must make sure that each child in my class is learning and meeting the state standards while ensuring that their first school experience is a positive one. Also, I am a role model for the children in my care, and I have to think carefully about the way I present myself to them.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of being a teacher is watching the students learn and develop new skills. When I see the progress they have made, see how proud they are of themselves, and see that they are enjoying school while making new discoveries about the world around them, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

The worst part of being a teacher is not being able to meet every child's needs all the time. With budgetary constraints, crowded classrooms and short-staffing at times, it is impossible to do everything that you know you should in the course of a short school day.

Job Tips: Visit as many school settings as you can and talk to teachers in the field to get an accurate picture of teaching in a public school. Undergraduate teaching classes can be more idealistic than practical and planning and teaching for a whole class while following the school's set curriculum may be very different from what you learn in your education classes in college. You'll learn more from experience than you will from your college courses.

Research the school district that you are interested in working in. See if their school philosophies and teaching practices are similar to yours. It is difficult to teach in an environment where your philosophy on education is different from theirs. You'll need support while you gain experience and you'll be happier knowing that your colleagues believe in similar teaching practices.

Find yourself a good mentor or fellow teacher to talk to. It really helps to be able to get advice from someone you feel comfortable with when you are having a difficult time with a student or need a new way to present a lesson when students don't seem to understand something.

Additional Thoughts: Many new teachers feel compelled to spend a lot of their own spare time and own money on their classrooms and lessons. It feels like you just have to do it to make things go the way you want them to, and to plan those extra-exciting lessons. Just be careful about spending too much money and spending too much time of your own. Don't get yourself into debt or get burnt out early on. Try to be realistic about what you are doing with your class.

Teaching is wonderful and very rewarding in spite of the challenges! It is different every single day and it never gets boring. Have fun with it! Enjoy the creativity that you can have with your lessons and the ways that you can reach your students.

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