Preschool Teacher Turned Preschool Parent

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From my very first school year as a preschool teacher in 2012, I watched my colleagues enjoy the excitement of their own kids coming to school in our building – starting out as cute and tiny three-year-olds and ending as kindergarten-ready five-year-olds heading off to their elementary schools. I imagined a time when I would get a chance to bring my own children into my school building  – a time to surprise their teachers with flowers and candy, wave at them in the hallway as our classes pass each other, and peek at them outside playing on the playground with their friends.

When my oldest son Dawson was born in 2020, the world was full of uncertainty. But I was certain when my time would be to have my own kid at my school, and I looked forward to it every new school year.

My son turned three earlier this year, and I decided to wait for the new school year to begin to start him in my preschool building instead of starting him mid-year. I wanted him to experience the first days of school with his classmates – picking out a backpack, deciding on what color field trip shirt to choose, and learning about his teachers and classmates on the first day of school. 

But I ended up experiencing a first as well. As my son started school this year, I did not for the first time since I was in preschool myself. His little brother Everett was born in early June, and I chose to take my maternity leave through Labor Day. 

I got to experience being a first-year preschool parent without being a preschool teacher. Never in my thoughts for over a decade did I think this would be the case. It ended up being the best six weeks for both of us.

He got to go to school by himself, without holding Mommy’s hand. He got to reach for his teacher’s hand instead. He got to be in the hallways without his mother poking her head to look at him at every turn she got. He got to be a normal first-time preschool student just like his peers.

I got to experience the joys of him telling me about his first days of school without having any notion of what his class had been up to. I got to be surprised about what he had for lunch every day as he told me every detail about what he ate and how many bites of everything he took. I even got to fully appreciate the complexity of the car line, something I definitely would never have experienced without my time off. (Did you know even teachers who have helped with the car line for 12 years can still get scolded for forgetting to turn their car off when it’s their turn?)

Having that time away from the school building as an employee and experiencing it just as a parent made me a better teacher, too. In the first few weeks of school, I questioned: What did I feel was most important when my son came home from school? It wasn’t figuring out which letter sounds they talked about that day or how they practiced counting. It was how he was making friends and enjoying his teachers. It was how excited he was to tell me who got to be line leader that day and who came to school with a new haircut. It made me reflect on what’s important to my students’ parents, and was a true reminder of what preschool should be all about!

When my youngest son begins at my school, I know I will not have that time with him as “just” a school parent. But I hope to remember the lessons I learned in those short six-weeks this year, maybe more important than any lessons I’ve ever taught myself.


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