The Joys and Struggles of Teaching Preschool On Your Own

Posted September 30, 2020

making play dough together


The Joys and Struggles of Teaching Preschool On Your Own

By Roxie Zeller

One of the things that drew me to preschool was the idea of teaching with another teacher: someone with whom to solve problems, to discuss challenges and to rejoice in victories. During my student teaching, I found being alone with a group of kindergarteners all day, although rewarding, was lonely. I often find myself this year wanting to talk to another teacher as the children play, to discuss what I’m seeing, what I’ve noticed, and to make plans together for the upcoming weeks.

Over the past few weeks I have discovered that teaching preschool by myself has unique challenges. Throughout the day I am constantly making plans and backup plans, in case children need to use the restroom or change clothes while the inside person is already busy with other children. A few times the children have even caught me thinking out loud to myself when I’m trying to figure out the best flow of the day. Along with constantly thinking about the plan of the day, I’m also thinking about the materials we will need and where to put them so they are accessible. This may be more due to the shift to teaching most of the day outside in response to the pandemic. You have to prepare more thoroughly than you do when you are inside in the classroom, with everything at your fingertips. At times I have had an idea to do a project based on what the children show interest in that day, but can’t gather materials while I watch the children play. I have also found that sometimes the children or I would like to add a few different things to the project to deepen the learning, but would need to venture inside to grab them, such as paper to make boats for the pond or riverbed, beads to add to the yarn and stick creations in the woods, and various materials to use to build dams. Through this I am learning to be more intentional about what materials I make available for an activity outside, and I’m figuring out how to make activities stretch from one day to the next by adding some novel, desirable materials.

One of the biggest struggles that I have experienced is taking photos. During child-led activities, it’s natural to take photos to document what is happening, but taking photos is one of the last things on my mind during teacher-led activities. I have found myself wishing I had photos of an activity that happened in the classroom only to realize that I don’t have another adult in the room who can take pictures of activities I’m leading. With a co-teacher, there is always someone else present to take photos of the moments your hands are full. In addition, a co-teacher tends to take photos of things I might otherwise miss, leading to a wider selection and variety in the photos taken. Although it can be hard to step back during teacher-led activities, I’m starting to learn when I can step back to take photos while still being present.

Although I’m looking forward to the day that we can all teach with co-teachers again, I am also enjoying teaching my small group on my own. It is so rewarding to see how close the group has grown over the past few weeks due to the fact that we do EVERYTHING together. We don’t have the option this year of splitting into groups outside based on interests or taking a few children off to work on a project. Because of the group being together all the time, I’ve noticed that the children look out for each other in a different way than I saw last year. When there is a problem, such as a stuck bike, they look to each other for help rather than to teachers. I have also really enjoyed the fact that because my group is all roughly the same age, we have been able to focus on some shared interest areas of the group in a deeper way than I have before. I also get lots of opportunities to simply show them what I love about nature and play on a personal level.

I’m excited to see how my little group continues to grow into a community this year. As the year passes we will be able to get to know each other very well, since in a small group, everyone’s strengths, struggles, and quirks come out and are accepted.

They Can Wear Their Pink Pajamas

Posted September 15, 2020

They Can Wear Their Pink Pajamas
By Amy Lemieux


As a new teacher fresh out of college, I remember the school principal telling me to be intentional with whom I surrounded myself. It did not take long for me to identify the colleagues in my building who would become my mentors as a young, impressionable teacher. Pat stood out immediately. She understood that for great learning to take place, the relationships within the classroom had to come first. In her classroom, she had created a community of emotional predictability, comfort and acceptance. The core values within her classroom were clearly defined and demonstrated. Notably, Pat had a boy in her second grade class who wore his pink pajamas to school. There was no doubt her classroom was a place of total acceptance.

In the beginning when the concept of All Seasons was only an idea, we had no defined boundaries. We started with…NOTHING. No location, no building, no teachers, no children or parents, no curriculum, no program, no schedule. While exciting, the lack of certainty was horribly uncomfortable. The only objective from the beginning: create a high-quality early childhood program that brought children and seniors together. In 2009 these missing components slowly materialized; some fell into place serendipitously and others were meticulously, sometimes painstakingly arranged. What was at the core, though, was a community of acceptance and familiarity, a joyful place for young children to grow and for older adults to age. All Seasons is a place where a little girl can (and did) tell the grandpa next to her, “I just wet my pants,” and he is comfortable to respond, “Me, too.” This is the type of radical acceptance I saw over twenty years ago in Pat’s classroom and remains the heart of our school community. An extraordinary early childhood community in which young children can learn and grow does not exist without teachers and parents who embrace this very nurturing environment. That quality remains and is the essence of what helped us move forward this summer and fall.

Reopening All Seasons in 2020 initially felt much like 2009. It felt horribly uncomfortable with many unknowns. The most difficult part was saying goodbye for now to the intergenerational component of our day, our grandmas and grandpas. But again, we started with what we knew. Already having a strong art and nature foundation as a springboard made building our schedule feel more natural. But first and foremost, seeing the children and talking to their parents this summer highlighted the most important component of our program: providing an emotionally safe and joyful environment with predictability during a time of unprecedented uncertainty. As we did in 2009, piece by piece, we are putting our puzzle back together. Your child is welcome to wear their pink pajamas to school. All Seasons is back, and we thank you for helping us along the way.