Learning the ABCs of early childhood education with kindergarten teachers

The opportunity to teach young minds is one quite familiar to kindergarten teachers. Though fulfilling, the work entails various day-to-day dilemmas they must contend with.

For most, kindergarten represents a child’s humble and hesitant first steps on a long educational journey. Guiding us through this are kindergarten teachers, our first educators, who take great care and effort in ensuring our holistic growth and development at an early age. 

Despite all the influence and impact that these educators have in molding the lives of young children, kindergarten teachers often deal with many challenges. These teachers must manage a classroom filled with curious and active children, while simultaneously delivering their lessons. On top of this, having to adjust to online learning has also become yet another major obstacle. In spite of these challenges, these educators selflessly dedicate themselves to the education of all the children entrusted to their care.

Through care and dedication

A kindergarten teacher’s responsibility is to guide and educate young children throughout their early childhood years—perhaps the most formative phase of their lives. “They (children) grow very rapidly during this age…these [years] are really the time where kids develop the most,” shares Karen Solares, preschool program coordinator at the De La Salle University Integrated School.

Through careful observation, kindergarten teachers are able to grasp a student’s strengths and preferences, helping them determine the kind of learning style works best for each child. With this, Solares explains that teachers at the Integrated School endeavor to prepare “developmentally appropriate activities that are carefully and intentionally planned”, and that they enact effective learning plans that both challenge and bring out the best in children.

Mia Yatco, a preschool teacher at Creative Learning Paths School (CLP), shares the same sentiment, adding that play is one such activity appropriate for development. “I am a big believer that the best learning method for children’s learning is play—with play, not only are they grasping the concept[s] while having fun, they’re also improving their communication and social skills,” Yatco conveys. 

For Yatco, raising a child to grow into an empathetic person is just as important as providing them with a holistic education. She explains that an individual with empathy understands not only their own feelings, but those of others as well. This makes them more cognizant of how their actions affect others, and allows them to think of how they can contribute positively to those around them. 

Teaching woes

However, being a kindergarten teacher is no walk in the park. The job often entails having to manage a classroom full of young children with varying needs, personalities, and backgrounds. Rowdy behavior is often dealt with in these educational spaces, while some young students may also experience separation anxiety from their parents, leading to their aversion to attending classes at school. 

Solares goes on to explain that overcoming these challenges is “not an overnight thing”, and that creativity and problem solving go hand-in-hand in providing an adequate solution. “It’s important to give them roles and responsibilities in the classroom. Having different roles in the classroom helps children to stay focused,” she posits, adding that giving them roles and responsibilities makes them feel confident.

In addition to these problems, students and teachers alike have lamented the effectiveness of online learning, citing increased difficulty in information retention and student engagement. For early childhood education, this challenge is even more daunting. “I think that online learning isn’t age-appropriate for young children because young children learn best through playing and interacting with people their age. [They] also rely a lot on tactile materials which a home can’t easily provide,” Yatco advises. 

But a more fundamental challenge exists in the profession: the lack of adequate compensation. Salaries for kindergarten educators in the country are far from competitive. Coupled with a lack of opportunities, educators are forced to look abroad in search of more competitive wages. “Formal schooling starts with us preschool teachers and we are the ones [who] start to mold them [into] the people they become as they grow older,” Yatco affirms. “So I think that the government should compensate us more because we deserve it.”

A solid presence

Navigating through the myriad of challenges can be tricky and overwhelming; in order to better address and overcome these troubles, teachers need to establish their visibility to both students and parents. Solares highlights the importance of having a meaningful teacher presence, which can be shown by making sure that each student is given attention, whether through feedback on their performance or even casual conversations about their day. “It’s important that you see each child, you call their attention everyday…because they know [that when] you give them attention, you care for them,” she asserts.

Meanwhile, Yatco applies her own practices to establish her teaching presence. “[I find out] what their interests are and incorporate it [into] my lesson plans,” she elaborates. She also makes it a point to cultivate proper behavior in students through communication and reflection. “It also helps if there’s communication between the teacher and the child’s parents so that there is consistency in terms of dealing with reactive emotions both at home and in school,” she recommends.

Luckily, the slow but sure transition to a hybrid setup allowed them to better demonstrate their  presence as educators, and helped them prepare for a more immersive teaching experience. Yatco describes how, during the hybrid or staggered schedule at CLP, they “took the time to not only get to know each other, but for the kids to get used to the routine in school so that they don’t get easily overwhelmed.”

For Solares, preparations come in two aspects: internal and external. She believes that, externally, the school is definitely ready—given the services and webinars spearheaded by the school administration. But internally, she confesses that given the still-looming threats of the pandemic, being prepared is all she can do. “Hopefully it’s enough, but I don’t know for sure [because I don’t know what might happen],” she admits. 

Fruits of their labor

Being given the challenge and privilege of teaching these young and malleable minds can definitely be intimidating. But at the end of the day, no matter how full these teachers’ hands are, there’s nothing they find more rewarding about their job than bearing witness to their students’ growth. For Yatco, it also makes her happy when parents give her feedback about the childrens’ improved behaviors at home, as she is able to see how the children develop beyond the confines of their schools.

“Nothing makes me prouder than seeing my students succeed knowing that I have helped them [and] that I have contributed [to who] they are as they grow,” Solares expresses fondly. She emphasizes that teaching, especially in early education, should not be confined within the four walls of a classroom. Rather, preschools should ensure that the children are given ample opportunities to socialize and make friends outside the realm of academic learning. Solares also divulges that even the simplest things—such as seeing the children excited for the next day of school—are already important to her, because it means that they enjoy the class.

The journey to success is never smooth-sailing, and people are always told not to forget their humble beginnings. Thus, it becomes even clearer why we should acknowledge the efforts of those who gave their all into ensuring that we grow into the best possible version of ourselves—especially the ones who were with us at our earliest stages.

Alessandra Pauleen Gomez

By Alessandra Pauleen Gomez

Angelo Emmanuel Fernandez

By Angelo Emmanuel Fernandez

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