I was accepted into Meddeas’ program as an Early Childhood Educator in Spain, and I received a placement to teach English to preschoolers in a Spanish school. I assumed that my main task was going to be teaching English, and it certainly was. But I did not know that teaching as an Early Childhood Educator is quite different from teaching in the traditional sense.
Of course I’m not going to prepare a lesson for a two-year-old on the correct conjugations of the English past tense. About half of my students haven’t even begun speaking yet, so I can’t focus on pronunciation. Sure, the title is “teacher,” but the day-to-day is so much more.
Here’s a look at what it actually means to teach English as an Early Childhood Educator, and the many roles it includes.
In these past six months as an English Early Childhood Educator in Spain, I’ve written no fewer than 20 songs, spanning the weather, months of the year, and choo-choo-trains. For some reason beyond my comprehension, the crowd favorite is one in which I simply recite the days of the week over and over again. It’s not winning any Grammys, but the kids can’t get enough.
I’ve pranced and spun around the classroom on tiptoes multiple times to distract babies from the horrifying fact that, yes, they cannot cling to their mothers’ chests for the next 2.5 hours.
I’ve changed my voice several octaves higher, like I’d sucked one too many helium balloons, and many octaves lower, like I was actually a very scary and confused old man.
When kids are entranced by my voice, they forget to shout or do somersaults and actually stay calm for more than a second.
I’ve become the funny woman of the daycare, doing crazy gestures, molding my face in a myriad of ways or hitting my head theatrically to get a real rise out of the kids.
I’ve decorated every corner of my English classroom, using artistic skills I never knew I had. I’ve modeled how to color in between the lines. And I’ve illustrated the entire Three Little Pigs story without the help of a printer. I can now draw every farm animal in existence in under 3 seconds flat. I’d say I’m rivaling Picasso’s talents.
Despite studying linguistics, not psychology, I’ve stepped up to play the role of counselor more than a few times. Most of my cases involve deciding who has the right to which Lego, or why it’s only fair that Pol concede the yellow marker to Marta. It was hers first, after all. Of course, every once in a while, I’ll mediate a more serious affair, like who bit who first, or why jumping on Martí’s head is grounds for a time-out.
I prefer not to play the role of cleaning woman all that often, but once in a while those who are supposedly “potty trained” just, well, don’t live up to the hype. And they let it be known on my classroom floor.
Ultimately, this role is the most important. It means that I get to spread the love in my classroom while the actual loved ones are at school. I get to shower the kids in kisses and hugs, and receive their little wet kisses in return. I get to teach them phrases like “give me a high-five” in English, and see their faces light up when I enter the room. And I get to witness a baby’s first steps and hear a toddler’s first words: I’m a 24-year-old mother with 20 part-time babies.
As you see, being an Early Childhood Educator with Meddeas means much more than simply helping the students with the English language. Now that I have sucessfully finished the program, I’m so glad it was like that.