By Anna Concannon — While studying in South Africa, I had the opportunity to help out with 3-5 year olds in a preschool classroom, which is an age group I did not have much experience with beforehand.
Being at the school gave me some insight about how the education system works there. I also learned a lot about how to be a good teacher.
Unfortunately, I saw a lack of instruction in this particular class, so I thought a lot about how I would improve the teaching.
On my first day at the school, the teacher/principle gave me ideas about various activities to do with the kids and played with them all day. On the subsequent days I was there, she stayed in her office almost the entire time, leaving me alone to keep the kids occupied, and she did not speak with me very much.
This was disappointing to me; it seemed like she was showing off her enthusiasm about teaching the first day to give off a good impression. Another explanation could be that she took advantage of having a helper in the classroom by using that extra time to do paperwork. Either way, there was not enough supervision of the kids. And they were a handful.
Overwhelmed at first, I learned to control the class and keep them occupied as my time there went on. Something valuable that I learned is the importance of transitioning. It can be difficult to motivate kids to clean and line up, so what made that easier was singing songs while we did it. At this young age, I discovered, kids love to sing.
Additionally, I recognized the significance of following a schedule. I am a very organized person, and many teachers I know are. To my dismay, the teacher I was helping was not at all; she just let the kids play all day. On my very last day at the school, I noticed there was a schedule of lessons on the wall that I never realized existed because there was no order of daily activities. The schedule included implementing math and writing skills into every “period” of the day… and I never saw that happen once. I did try doing this in some of the activities I led, which was successful.
Lastly, I learned to relax and let the children have fun. I sometimes get stressed out when kids misbehave, but after a while I learned to step back a little and the kids would fix their problems with each other without me asking them to do so. This helped keep me content during the long schooldays, and I will remember this when I have my own class someday.
Even though there was a language barrier between the kids and me, the school had really few resources, and the teacher did not supervise the kids enough, I fell in love with the kids at the preschool in South Africa. I have a new-found appreciation for teaching the younger ones, and I feel that it could be a good fit for me.