I have a background as a preschool teacher. Long before I finally earned my elementary school teaching credential, I taught preschool for a couple of years at a chain day-care. At the time I saw it as a sort of educational progression for myself, starting with young children and working my way up. There was also a practial reason for this - the credits necessary to teach preschool could be earned at the Community College level. The next step would be to finish my Bachelor's Degree and get my credential for Elementary School. It ended up taking a much longer time than I intended, and I took a few detours along the way, but I finally saw my plan through.
All of this exposition is by way of explainining that I have experience with preschool and pre-kindergarten, and so I take sub jobs at this level when available. In my area, we have several preschools located in the elementary campuses that are state funded. In practice, they operate very differently from the chain preschool where I once spent my days, but the principles of child development really don't change.
When I reported on Monday morning, I found the job was not subbing for the teacher, but for the assistant teacher, which meant the teacher would be in the room, along with her student assistant. Three adults makes for an easier day with small children, but in this case, I found the teacher to be of the type of personality that, to put it gently, grates on me in the worst possible way. She was overly controlling and not in that comfortable way that makes you feel like she's got it together. She had all of the academic teaching instructions down, in terms of teaching blending, keeping to a schedule and classroom control, but there was no room for fun or any type of experession. Examples of the children's writing were all over the place, but not an art project in sight, and the day was highly regimented with obedience being the main requirement. The kids were rushed from one thing to another all day long. If you were to look from the outside for a few minutes, you might think it was an ideal classroom, but given some time, the cracks show.
Everyone has their own style, and I tend to not be quite so nitpicky. I pick my battles and tend to be laid back about some things, especially when there are people trying to help me. This teacher got upset with her (new) student aide for writing down the names of kids who were not staying still at rest time. The aide tried to explain that the teacher had been on her lunch at the time, and she wrote the names down to remember them, but the teacher told her to "just tell me." She also got upset at the same aide for the placement of a table. While explaining to the children about syllables, she questioned the number of syllables in a word. She was looking straight at me, and I said that because there was a double-consonant, it separated the word into two syllables. I offered to look it up if she had a dictionary handy and she just maintained that she was correct and I was wrong. (For the record, I looked up the word that night when I got home, and I was correct.) From that point, I stopped offering assistance and just did what I was directed to do. It was easy to see that initiative wasn't welcome.
I think there has to be some warmth in a person who works with young children. I would never want kids to be afraid of me or to think I don't like them, but this teacher laughed at her students and seems to have a power struggle going on with at least one parent that I could see this week. Yet, in terms of the student preformance, she probably achieves the very important Measurable Results.
I could give many examples of why she rubbed me the wrong way, but perhaps the most telling is this: because it was full-day, the kids had an hour of nap time in the middle of the day. One day, one of the kids woke up crying. I went to hug her and try to comfort her, and this woman's reaction was to tell me that this girl always cried after her nap and to just leave her alone. I'm not so sure the child's mother would have appreciated hearing how her daughter's teacher handled her child's disorientation when waking up at school instead of at home in her own bed.
So, the moral of the story is that there are all kinds of people in charge of classrooms full of children. Some have style and some have substance. Some work off of their academic knowlege and some work by instict. One of the advantages of substituting is that I can see who I never want to be.