Confessions of a pre-school teacher: This job can make you cry

The biggest misconception people have about her job is that "anyone can do it".

But the truth is, there is more to being a pre-school teacher than singing nursery rhymes.

Pre-school teachers have to change diapers, clean up "accidents" and face the pre-schoolers' brutal honesty, solicited or not.

A pre-school teacher of almost 10 years, who wants to be known as Ms Crystal, says: "Once, a colleague came to help out in my class, where I was the form teacher.

"One of the kids said to her, 'You're not my teacher. You are ugly. I hate you.' My colleague didn't burst into tears but her facial expression changed."

Ms Crystal knew she was interested in teaching when she was in secondary school, and she has always had a soft spot for young children.

She holds a diploma and degree in early childhood education. But all those papers could not prepare her for what she was about to face. In the early days of her career, she fumbled with diapers.

"I fastened the diapers too loosely, so the contents spilt out," she recalls.

Now, Ms Crystal is so deft at changing diapers she can do it while a child is standing up.

But the toughest part of the job is not the soiled diapers, but dealing with the growing demands of parents.

"They expect you to give their child the same attention they do at home. They forget there are only a few of us to about 20 children here," Ms Crystal says.

She remembers a parent who flipped after discovering a small red mark on her son's cheek.

"There wasn't blood, and it was the sort of mark which would have faded away after a day or two.

"She was very upset and made us promise it would never happen again. She then lifted her son's clothes to check his body for marks before school each day.

"It added stress for the teachers because we had to ensure he didn't get close to the other kids in case there was an accident."

The wealth and preferences of some parents have also been an eye-opening experience.

"There was a parent who wanted us to find a pair of socks her son lost while playing outdoors," Ms Crystal says.

The socks cost more than $50.

Some pre-schoolers who have been under Ms Crystal's charge sported brands such as Burberry and Gucci.

Despite their innocent appearances, the pre-schoolers can be quite aggressive, says Ms Crystal.

She remembers her face getting scratched by one after she tried to talk to him when he threw toy blocks all over the place and smashed some of the toys.

"I was close to tears. It happened very close to my wedding day," she says.

Asked about a recent case of child abuse caught on a childcare centre closed circuit television, Ms Crystal says she can imagine how the teacher went over the edge.

"It's not easy, dealing with more than 20 kids for many hours in a day," she says.

She confesses that she still gets angry sometimes when the pre-schoolers are rude or mean. She leaves the classroom to cool off.

"I tell my teaching partner that I need a time-out. Even if it's five minutes in the toilet, it helps," Ms Crystal explains.

Staying healthy can also be a challenge to a pre-school teacher.

"The bugs that kids pass to you are especially potent, you know," she jokes.

"Children will also still want to hold on to you even when they have green snot trickling down their faces. You can't push them away, so you just deal with the consequences."

Still, there are moments which make all the soiled diapers and mucus worth the trouble.

Ms Crystal still marvels at the innocence and creativity she sees each day.

She remembers asking a pre-schooler why he painted a flower black and his reply was: "It's been raining and the flower is muddy." But the biggest plus point to her?

"The little ones can get very attached to you. They want to sit on your lap and tell you that they love you. It's heartwarming, watching them grow and progress."

Secrets of the trade

1. When you're struggling to mobilise the pre-schoolers for an activity, make up a song and sing it. They will start singing along and start following your instructions.

2. When they chatter incessantly and pay no attention to you, turn off the lights in the class for a while. It is sure to make them stop and listen.

3. Dress to the nines on the weekends. Put on those heels and a light-coloured dress, because you can't wear them to work without getting them ruined.


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