An open letter from a preschool teacher to parents

Have you ever wondered what motivates and upset your child's preschool teacher? Here's what this veteran preschool teacher wants you to know.

Dear Mr and Mrs X,

2016 will mark my ninth year working in the preschool industry. Truth be told, I have mixed feelings about my journey with our kids (yes, I think of your kids as mine too when we are in my class) over the next 12 months as we attempt to conquer yet another series of milestone together.

As much as the new school year is always exciting as it brings new challenges and a different set of kids with their own special personalities and quirks, 2016 also marks another year of a longer-than-expected tenure in this industry. Yes, I had never thought I would be teaching for this long. Let me tell you why.

Teaching preschoolers is a thankless job, especially when teaching the younger age group. With the toddlers, it is not so much of teaching the academics but rather, honing their self-help skills and encouraging social interaction among their peers. Any day that goes by without incurring an accident is a big victory on its own. Nobody spilt their drink? Yay! No one had a pee-pee accident? Wow, this is an awesome day! Nobody bumped themselves? Hurray! No biting incidents today? Great, we are doing so well!

It’s the small, almost unnoticeable innumerable things that we teach your kids, the stuff we adults take for granted. For us, it is the small wins that we celebrate.

Do you know what could make our day though? Reciprocate our smiles or give us a morning greeting! Generally, we are simple creatures, and you really have no idea how much such little gestures mean to us.

So many times, I have heard my colleagues say that they feel like they are greeting a robot whose body functions seem to be programed on repeat mode daily – remove child’s shoes, place them in the shoe cubby, hand over the bag to the teacher, kiss the child goodbye, turn around and leave. I have also witnessed this scene countless times when it is my turn to be on morning duty.

Make 2016 a better year for us with these simple niceties and we will be that much motivated by your appreciation to try harder for your child.

Although, I must qualify by saying that no matter how motivated I am, or how determined I am to do a great job, I cannot say with complete confidence that your child will not sustain any injuries throughout the year.

When an accident does happen, let me assure you we are more anxious than you are, which is why you would hear from us once an accident occurs. We are sincerely apologetic and we do our best to ensure the safety of all children, but sometimes, things just happen.

For example, a child may have just mustered the courage to jump from one hula-hoop to the next, but due to their rudimentary motor skills, they stumble and fall. The best way to prevent any sort of accident is to restrict their movements, but that would defeat the purpose of them going to preschool, wouldn’t it? And therein lies the contradiction, to encourage their growth and development, we have to expose them to risks, we have to let them explore, and falling is sometimes a part of this experience.

As educators, we celebrate the joy of the child experiencing a jump for the first time, but when we call to inform you of the accident, all you perceive is “how can you let this happen? What are the teachers doing?”.

On the one hand, we really want you to know that accidents happen, and any temporary injury is really a good part of the experience. On the other hand, it also leaves little to imagine what really goes into our heads when we see your child come to school with bruises one day, only to find out from you that your child actually fell. At home. Under your supervision. And you only have one (okay, maybe two or three?) child under your care. Your casual dismissal to an injury sustained from home is a stark contrast to your reaction to an accident that occurred in school. Honestly, this is something that I find difficult to comprehend.

This new year, how about we try to look at injuries in a positive light? How about you have a teeny bit more trust in us that we are working with you to bring up your child well? All I ask is not to automatically assume the worst, with a suspicious sideway glance, but to hear us out and trust that we did our best to prevent it. Believe me, that bit of trust really goes a long way in making our jobs that much more fulfilling.

So, enough of my grouses. Let me tell you now why I am here still, a lot longer than I had expected.

A large part of it is you, my dear Mr and Mrs X. The Mr and Mrs X who will still keep in touch after your child has graduated, who still send the present and card every festive season. I truly appreciate the effort and kind thoughts when I receive updates about your child.

In the beginning of last year, you even put me on the phone with your daughter because she missed me so much and just wanted to hear my voice. That kind of made my heart squeeze just a little to know that I still mean enough to her. Another one of you also sent me a picture of your son’s writing of my mobile number on his little whiteboard so that he could “call Ms Lee anytime I want”. This is also the same child who still remembers to push in his chair after he is done using because I inculcated this good habit when he was in my class. These little updates make me almost burst with pride at what amazing mini humans your children have grown into, beyond the walls of my classroom

Dear Mr and Mrs X, as we start on the new year, do remember that your child may be the center of your universe, but I share mine with fifteen other who are just as precious and treasured as your own. I love your child as if she is my own.

On top of being grossly underpaid for all the things we do at work, we are also often short-handed yet still expected to deliver just the same. Trust me when I say that we are even willing to extract the boogers from the nose of a tiny person whom we are not even related to by blood or trim their fingernails because their parents forget to do so, or do not even realise it has grown so long.

Dear Mr and Mrs X, the next time you see me, or any of your child’s teacher, whoever she may be, do spend a minute or two to chitchat. Ask about her day. Find out more about her. Whilst I get that not all parents are talkers and that is totally okay, we also wouldn’t mind you asking about us.

For what it’s worth, you are a major influence in keeping alive my passion to educate your child.

Do you have great stories about your child's preschool teacher to share? Let us know in your comments below!