Sticky Kisses, Messy Hands, and Loud Voices

Just another day in a PreK classroom.

In case you were wondering (and given that my last post was four months ago, I doubt you are), I took the AmeriCorps job that I mentioned in June. I moved to Washington, DC in August — technically, I live in Maryland — where I am hoping to stay for a while. A couple of years, at least. But more on that transition later. I have five or six drafts waiting for updating and polishing, but life has gotten in the way of this blog.

So after a week of intensive training on everything from positive behaviour management to reading interventions to songs about alliteration, I got tossed off the deep-end into a classroom of 20 four-year-olds in Southeast DC. It is not as bad as it sounds…there are two other adults in my classroom (a lead teacher and a paraprofessional aide). But still, being an early-childhood literacy tutor in a room full of energetic kids is certainly never, ever boring.

I am a specialised tutor, not a general TA. I work with all the kids on certain things each day — a small group read aloud and they practice writing their names every day — and now that I am done with my initial assessments, I will have a caseload of about seven students to work with more closely. This will include anything from vocabulary to forming written letters. My caseload of students are the ones who are deemed furthest behind on grade-level literacy skills. I embed songs into our every day routines to teach rhyming and alliteration. I also help out around the classroom with lunch, nap time, clean-up, play time, and the lead-teacher’s literacy and math lessons.

I regularly come home with marker on my hands and arms. My uniform shirts have seen anything from syrup to snot. (See what I did there with the alliteration? I cannot help it now.) My trousers and jeans need to be washed more than normal. I ask “What’s the magic word?” five times a day.  I tie shoes and zip jackets and open milk cartons ten times a day. I give out hugs and high-fives and thumbs-ups and “I love you’s” 20 times a day. I am “Ms Adcock” from 8am to 5:30pm.

(As a side note: I would really prefer to be “Ms Jen”, since I am still caught up in the weird adult-i-ness of being “Ms” anything at all, much less “Ms Adcock”, which is my mother. But even the teachers call each other by their last names, so “Ms Adcock” I will remain.)

I had forgotten how exhausting it is to work with young children for eight-plus hours every day. You have to be mentally and physically present every single second, ready to react to any situation you could possibly think of (and then some you did not) and still somehow teach them what you need them to learn.

Sometimes it is really hard to get up in the morning. The stress is high and the pay is low. But then one of my students writes their name all by themselves and it is crooked and it is messy and it is perfect and it is worth it.

My goal for every day — my silent promise to myself and to my kiddos — is to never raise my voice in anger or frustration and to teach them at least one new thing every day, no matter how small.

So far I think I have succeeded.

Everything is a lesson. For them, for me.

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

If that is all I teach them this year, I will call it a win.


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