Lessons Learned from Interning at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning

This semester I have had the privilege to assist in a preschool classroom at the A. Sophie Rogers School for Early Learning, the Ohio State lab school for children ages six-weeks through six years. For the last four months, I have spent 20 hours a week working alongside children and staff in room 124. You can read more about my daily experiences here and here. These are the top takeaways from my internship:

  1. Children’s development is complex. Children are very rarely totally “ahead,” “on track,” or “behind” in most or all developmental domains as I had previously thought. I guess I believed that since all parts of the child grow in the same environment then that environment nurtures all parts of the child equally well. However, this is not the case. A child can have extraordinary language skills and poor social skills. They can have strong print awareness, but poor phonological awareness. A child’s strengths and weaknesses are complex.
  2. No one likes to be told what to do, so avoid telling people what to do. I could go on and on about my growth and understanding in this regard, but I’ll cut to the chase: speak to children the way you want to be spoken to.
  3. The best teaching has nothing to do with lessons or planning. Teaching happens in every interaction a teacher shares with his or her students. It’s the conversations shared at the snack table, lining up for outdoor play, or while feuding in the building space where most of the teaching happens. Lessons make up a small fraction of the day; it’s the interactions that really count. 
  4. You have to be stubborn. There are times when it would be easier to just let things go, but seizing every opportunity to model and correct behavior is key to building independence and creating a happy, calm classroom for all.
  5. Guidance and discipline involve a tricky balance. You have to teach students the skills to succeed while providing consequences that deter destructive behavior.
  6. If it doesn’t matter, don’t control it. Climb up the slide! Spend 10 minutes washing your hands! Put the baby dolls in the water table! There is no use in getting into power struggles over things that don’t really matter, and normally if you let go, pretty impressive learning happens. Limits should never be arbitrary.
  7. The better the teacher you are the less stressful the job is. Before this experience, I was worried that teaching would be too stressful for me, but after seeing my master teacher lead I understand that a strong teacher can create calm within the class once he or she has the skills to do so.
  8. Affluence affects development and learning in different ways than I previously thought. Mo’ money, mo’ problems
  9. Working with the same children over an extended period is more rewarding and easier than subbing. Knowing students is half the joy of working with them.
  10. Teaching is not isolating work. Possibly a problem specific to me, I was wary of being a career teacher because I thought it would be lonely and emotionally laborious work. I thought working with people at such a drastically different stage in life as myself would be isolating. I thought I would have to pretend to feel positive emotions when I didn’t. I was wrong. Teaching preschool is the most human job I have ever had the privilege of working. My students show up as their whole selves and so do I. That’s what it takes to build connections. I know them, and they know me more intimately than any coworkers at an office job.

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