Preschool teachers learn plenty, both funny and serious, from their tiny charges by year's end:
*Some parents take showers together "even when they are not in a hurry." ... Some teachers live together, but most never even leave the school.
*Pumpkins grow on steps at Halloween time ... Money grows inside ATM machines. ... Spider Man lives in New York City. ... A bad guy is green. ... If you're alone in the woods, call 911.
*Ask kids to avoid a puddle and they'll land in it every time ... Every leaf, every acorn, every rock is a discovery. There are no weeds, only flowers. ... A caterpillar turns into a "raccoon," goes to "sweep," then becomes a butterfly. ... One drop of water can kill an ant.
We teachers are also reminded of what works:
*A timer is an impartial juror. Children crave fairness, are too young to wait long, and work well with the promise of their turn in due time. ... A shiny new lunch box is the greatest thing since sliced bread. .... New Silly Bandz are not the greatest thing in class, and make it difficult for kids to pay attention.
*Children thrive on routine, but teachers have to be flexible. Planned lessons sometimes have to be tossed out. If a student with a scrunched-up nose comes in asking after seeing the news -- "What's an earthquake?" -- he needs to leave with answers. Panda bears can wait. ... Don't fake it when a voice in circle pipes up with, "Where does half of the moon go?"
*Despite the Broadway show they put on at morning drop-off, children are capable of separating from their parents and understand that their moms and dads have to go to work or have other things to do. They are strong during that time away, despite the fact that they melt down at home where they feel the most comfortable.
*Children benefit from ways to make connections to what's going on in their lives. Playing, reading books or creating art helps them process their feelings. Get-well cards or handmade gifts for a seriously ill sibling or classmate make sense. When grandparents leave after a visit, painting a picture to mail mends a granddaughter's broken heart. ... A boy's big hug before his best friend leaves on a trip makes the sadness slip away.
*A wide-open space is an invitation to run, run, run. A long hallway looks like a track. Reeling kids back in after they unleash their energy takes a huge amount of effort. Better to go over the rules before you set out, and start over when you sense some kids are ready to rumble. Promise there will be a time and a place -- the playground.
*Preschoolers adore their families, their pets and telling how old they are. They want to tell their teachers about everything from what they had for breakfast to baby sister has diarrhea. What matters most is that bonding and learning are built at preschool and at home. And that dinosaurs don't turn into machine guns.
Advice from cyber-bullying expert Mary Kay Hoal of Yoursphere.com: Give your kids a tool to work with if they get inappropriate messages on line. Here it is: "Don't respond. Tell your Mom. Make a copy." That's a way for kids to protect themselves and for parents to have a plan if there is abuse.
If you have tips or questions, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.