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The Real Poop

"The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face." Jack Handy

Where would the children of the world be without preschool? They'd be at home, acting like wild animals, probably. You, the preschool professional, are that child's tamer. Children's minds and bodies are filled with unformed material, and it's your job to shape it. And sometimes wipe it up.

Preschool (or "pre-K") is a little bit healthcare and a little bit school. You'll be feeding, cleaning, dressing, soothing, and exercising infants to 3- to 5-year-olds all day long. In between naps and snacks, you'll squeeze in some ABC's, 123's, and stuff with yarn and blocks.

Many preschools double as daycare centers, so a small part of your job is babysitting, but don't be fooled—it's not all fun and games. It's also juice and nap time. (The kids get to eat and rest, too.)

You'll need an education to educate these little guys. You can't just sit a kid down and tell her she can't have lunch until she learns the alphabet. Well, you can, but it won't work. And neither will you. There are special tips and tricks that make learning fun. Now with computers and energy drinks and performance enhancing graham crackers, it's a whole new world out there. Can you imagine how overwhelmed a kid might feel? Preschool is a safe, warm, nurturing place. The bright colors and the cheerful setting make kids happy to learn, and with your skills and care, each will achieve crucial developmental benchmarks they'll need to thrive.

You are a child's first teacher (after the parents, and Kermit, of course.) You are preparing kids to learn—sometimes it means helping them sit still. Other times, it means taking special care of the students who aren't learning like the rest of the class. You'll need to recognize and remain alert to anything out of the ordinary in a child's speech, hearing, motor skills, language, behavior, and emotional well-being. You'll need to know when to call in specialists and how to communicate with parents or other caregivers about a child's own obstacles.

Those skills are rare, but they can be taught. Getting a degree in early childhood development is a requirement, but loving children is the only quality you can't learn. You'll need to be patient, reassuring, a good listener, and a positive influence.

Preschool teachers have extremely important responsibilities. Look around you—everyone you meet has done time on the checkered carpet. Your favorite celebrities? That guy running for office? Yup. At one point they couldn't write their own names without their tongues sticking out a little. That's right, somewhere out there is a woman who saw Donald Trump naked, hairless, and screaming for his mommy (not including Marla and Ivana, of course).

Pre-K life isn't all lesson plans and reports. Some days you may find yourself lying in the grass and watching bugs with your students. An impromptu learning opportunity is just as important as potty training or shoe tying.

A preschool teacher is the one person besides a parent who first shows a child how to hold a pencil and also when to just let the tears come out. By Kindergarten, all the mushy stuff has to go and it's reading, writing, and another thing with an R. Was it recess?

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