I’ve worked at a few preschools throughout the years. I had recently been hired at a school called… well, let’s call it Kiddie Korral. Yes, that’s a good name for it. Anyways, I had been working for a financial firm for about 3.5 years after my last preschool stint, thinking that a bigger income would make me happier, but although it made me able to afford nicer things, I definitely wasn’t happier. I decided to go back to working with kiddos and take a 45% paycut. It was insane, but I knew I needed to work with little ones.
Anyways, so I get this job at Kiddie Korral. It had been a long time since I’d worked in a preschool, and when I interviewed with the director at that time I could tell she was a little dodgy, but I figured it was worth it to be back in Preschool. Now, the last time I had worked in a preschool, I was 19, young, stupid, rebellious, so going into a new school in a new stage of my life, I knew I would approach this job differently.
Working in a preschool was a pretty strange career path for me. See, I was homeschooled. My dad worked, didn’t make a lot of money, but he felt that my mom should be home with my sisters and I. Money was tight for them, I am sure, but we never missed a meal. (Thanks to my mama’s frugality. She knows how to stretch a meal!) My mom is not a college graduate, a teacher, nor did she have any extensive training on how to school her three daughters, but she did it. I had my mama and my sisters every day, all day. I never went to public school to sit in a classroom, let alone preschool all day in my early childhood years. My first time setting foot in a classroom was Mr. Shaack’s math class at a Community College at 16. This whole concept of rallying a bunch of little ones in the same age group and shoving them in a room with 2 women is an entirely foreign concept to me. But for now, I digress.
So my first week, was a lot of reconditioning, readjusting, and reprogramming my mind. While some teachers told kids to stop crying because mommy had to go to work, I would sit and hold those little ones and try and hide my tears along with them. It was culture shock. I was out of my element. I had second thoughts about having taken the job after the first week. What had I gotten myself into??
And then came my second week. Something tremendous happened. I want you to picture this scene. 20 preschoolers. 2 teachers. Lunch time has just finished and it’s time to get all the kids down for their way too long nap so that teachers can go to lunch. We call all the kids in to wash their hands, and within 8 minutes one kid had pooped his pants. It was diarrhea. 3 little boys are peeing all over the floor and each other in the boy’s bathroom. One little girl is hogging up the girl’s bathroom because she’s constipated. Meanwhile, another little girl left the water running after stuffing the sink with paper towels. There are 2 little girls dipping paper towels into the sink water and washing each other’s bodies, clothing, and the walls with the water. Oh, and little “Sally” wet her pants… for the 3rd time that day. Once I sprayed poopy boy down with the hose outside and got him dressed, the boy’s bathroom floor had been bleached and mopped (and those 3 boys wiped down with wipes), Little Miss Constipated had been relieved, the girl’s sink had been unstopped and that floor mopped, and the bathing beauties and Sally were in clean dry clothes, I sat down on the floor in a heap next to one of the kid’s napping mats. I took a 45% pay cut for THIS? I began whimpering quietly as I sat in there alone with 20 snoring, dirty faced, wood chip sock filled 3 year olds.
I felt exhausted and a failure. Where were those piles of account paperwork I hated so much at the financial firm? Where was my comfy desk chair and widescreen monitor with access to youtube and my favorite blogs? Where were those high heels and slacks I hated to wear every day? This was for the birds. And ew! Was that poop on my Converse?!
I looked down at the little boy I had sat next to. He was the hardest kid to deal with in the class, had already had a write up or 2 that day, and was full of energy. He opened his brown eyes, looked up at me quizzically as I dried my face, and wiped the raccoon eyes away from my dripping mascara. He picked up my hand lying next to him, and kissed it. “I love you Miss Rachel. You’re my favorite teacher.” He held my hand, and closed his eyes again to sleep.
Ah. So this is why I was there. I couldn’t remember a better feeling. I was the luckiest woman alive. I knew that I was where I was supposed to be, and that experienced changed my outlook on my job. I wasn’t just a child wrangler (though that was a large part of the job in an overcrowded school), I was loved, and I had 20 little souls to care for, love, and influence.
That was one of the best days of my life. Poop and all.