- The preschool owner told me not to plan too far ahead at first because I would need to know the class and cater to them. Very sound advice. My kids have sort of short attention spans for most of our centers activities, but can sit there for a long circle time. Granted there are a few that don't do as well sitting there period, but overall as a group they really dig that time all together. So, when I plan now, I try to make circle time very full of different activities and songs and engage with them there as we learn about the theme. (Not that I wouldn't try to engage with them if they could only sit for 5 minutes.) For centers I've figured they really like to be in a group still. I try to mainly plan group things and less independent work, though I am working on that.
- You are going to look like an idiot. You are going to mess up words to finger-plays and songs. You are going to forget where you just put something down a second ago. You will accidentally skip that whole part about teaching them how to hold scissors or about much glue to use. It's ok. The kids don't care. They just love that you love them. (Incidentally, more sound advice the owner gave me when I was still feeling terrified.) They don't care that your tune for a song is wrong or if you are way off key. The parent helpers may notice, but, hey, you are there for their kids, not to perform for them.
- Don't be afraid. I'm sort of laughing that I am writing this because I was a serious wreck for weeks before my first day. I ran a marathon for the first time the following week and that was way less stressful! I believe that people really can do most of the things that they think they can't do. It just take a little belief in yourself and baby steps.
- It may be too soon to know how effective what I am doing is, but I am slowing adding things to circle time, specifically calendar time. We've done a days of the week song and now have added a months of the year and a today, tomorrow, yesterday song. They are getting better at the songs the more we sing them, though I still feel like I'm solo on stage. That is one thing that makes teaching only twice a week hard. There are themed songs that we really only sing once and the kids never really get the chance to learn them. I mean, it's not like we're going to try singing about the falling leaves in January. It might work where you are, but we have 4 seasons.
- I'm also unsure just how awesome this is for them, but based on instinct and what I can remember from school eons ago, but I'm trying to mix up story telling. I will do a finger-play one day and chant/song with movement another. Everyday I read at least one good old fashioned book. I'm not a natural at story telling and need to work more on memorizing the stories I'm not reading from a book. That way when I bust out the flannel board I can focus on being a lot more fun instead of worrying about singing or saying the wrong words.
- Prepared to be surprised about what holds their interest. Playing with shaving cream was nearly a bust, but they went gaga over Bingo. It may have been the biggest hit yet (well, outside of play dough and the sensory bin.) I would have never guessed that a simple matching game would win out over making a mess.
- And to bring us back to where we started, document what you do. Keep files on what you do for each theme or center. Be as detailed as you figure you need to be so that when next year rolls around, "future you" will thank "present you" for doing so much prep work. Note what worked, what you might change, or something new to try out next time. I do this for recipes and let me tell you, "future me" loves to know when less oil is better and when some added green peppers instead of cucumbers would enhance the meal.
- Do what works for you. For instance, I have been working on master lists for songs. I know there are a lot premade lists that exist online, but I need a list of ones that I would actually enjoy singing with the kids. Ones that flow out easily and naturally as we perform the actions together or tap out the beat are going to be more fun for the kids because they can see that I think it is fun. This goes for all different aspects. If you love art, they will sense your enthusiasm as assist them in creating their own masterpieces. If you think science is the greatest thing on earth, they will happily explore and learn with you. It should go without saying, but you will have to to things you don't love too and the kids might not love what you do. Find a way to mix what works for you with those things you don't love as much and it will be a win-win for all. I love organizing things in a way that makes sense to me, even if it is not how it's "always been done." Using what you know about yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses to help you as you plan. Which brings me to...
- There is always a better way. This might sound discouraging, but it's meant to be the opposite. Someone will always have a cuter idea. They will have a more exciting way to present an idea. Don't compare yourself to them. It's hard not to, but just like you are teaching your preschoolers, you are special and there are things that only you can bring to the classroom.
So, good luck to you on your new journey. And if this is a road well traveled for you what advice would you give?