There are essential skills that are important for every preschool teacher to have in order to manage their classrooms effectively and efficiently and support children's social, emotional, and academic development.
Skills such as communication and collaboration enable teachers to build better relationships with families about their child’s progress and work better in teams with other educators to support all children in the classroom.
While some preschool teacher skills are innate, others can be learned. All teachers, whether new to the profession or veterans, can continue to develop their skill sets to better support the children in their care. Below, we’ll explore the key skills you need to become a successful preschool teacher.
Why do you want to become a preschool teacher?
Being a preschool teacher may seem like it's all playtime and fun, but a lot of work goes into it. In addition to all the hard work, the profession also comes with a lot of rewards. Seeing the joy on a child's face when learning something new or accomplishing something they've been working hard on is a joy to behold.
First, as a preschool teacher, you get a chance to make a difference in the lives of children. The early years are crucial for development and laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning. As a preschool teacher, you help your children develop essential skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Being a preschool teacher also offers decent pay, as the average salary for a preschool teacher in the United States is about $30,000 per year.
Becoming a preschool teacher is a great way to start a career in education. There are opportunities for advancement, and you will be well-positioned to move into other roles.
But before you begin your journey to becoming a preschool teacher, ask yourself why you want to enter this profession. You don't want to commit to becoming a teacher unless you are sure it is the right fit for you.
Here are the motivations that typically draw people to become preschool teachers:
A passion for working with children
Preschool teachers must have a deep love for working with children. They enjoy watching children grow, learn, and explore new things and are passionate about making a difference in their lives.
Helping children succeed
Whether learning a new skill or reaching a milestone, seeing children succeed is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a preschool teacher. The first few years of a child’s development are crucial and providing an engaging learning environment will help build the foundation for future learning success.
Working with children of all backgrounds and abilities
As a preschool teacher, you will have the opportunity to work with children of all different backgrounds and abilities. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about other cultures and to help children learn and grow in their own ways. If you enjoy working with a diverse group, this might be the right profession for you.
What does a preschool teacher do?
A preschool teacher is responsible for caring for and educating children ages three to five. They work in various settings, including public and private schools, childcare centers, and Head Start programs.
The duties of a preschool teacher vary, depending on the ages and needs of the children they are working with. However, all preschool teachers share a common goal—to help their children learn and grow.
There are specific duties that all preschool teachers must fulfill to reach this goal.
First, preschool teachers create a safe learning environment for their children. This includes providing a clean and well-organized classroom, supervising activities, and ensuring that all safety procedures are followed. Children need to feel safe to learn, so it’s the role of teachers to create a positive and nurturing environment.
Second, preschool teachers plan and implement engaging activities for their children. These activities promote learning and development in all cognitive, social, emotional, and physical areas. They also provide opportunities for children to explore their interests and express themselves creatively.
Preschool teachers must also assess each child's progress and adjust their instruction accordingly. They achieve this by observing children during activities, keeping track of their progress, and identifying each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses to help each child reach their full potential.
Preschool teachers also communicate regularly with families. This includes sharing information about their child's progress, providing resources and advice, and addressing parents' questions or concerns. Good communication helps to maintain a positive relationship between teachers and families.
Finally, preschool teachers collaborate with other professionals, such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, and counselors. This allows them to provide their children with the best possible education and care. By working together, they ensure that all children are receiving the individualized attention they need to succeed.
Skills needed to be a preschool teacher
Preschool teacher skills help to make the learning process fun and engaging for young children, lay a foundation for later success in school, and encourage a love of learning. The skills are essential both in classroom settings and in one-on-one interactions.
Children, families, and other educators will get the most out of working with teachers who master the following skills:
With a large group of young children, teachers need to be organized. This includes having a well-planned lesson, easily accessible materials, and a safe and inviting classroom.
Something as simple as having a designated area for art supplies or books creates a sense of order in the classroom. When everything is in place and there is a routine, children feel more comfortable and focused on learning.
Teachers must clearly and concisely explain activities, expectations, and rules to young children. They also need to be good listeners to understand what children are saying and identify any problems they may have.
When speaking with families, clear and frequent communication builds a strong partnership. It's typically best practice for teachers to avoid using jargon and speak in a clear, direct manner when discussing their child’s progress with families.
Classroom management skills
A skilled preschool teacher uses effective behavior management strategies to create a positive learning environment for all children while still providing individualized attention. This includes maintaining discipline, keeping children on task, and managing daily transitions.
Keeping a class of preschoolers engaged can be challenging. Avoiding downtime and creating consistent daily schedules and structured routines will help keep children busy and engaged.
Lesson planning skills
Preschool teachers must plan developmentally appropriate lessons that meet each child's needs. This includes knowing what skills need to be taught and how to teach them in a way that is engaging and fun.
Teachers need to be flexible in their planning and be able to adjust lessons quickly if necessary. This might mean adding an extra activity or modifying an existing one to meet the children’s needs more successfully.
Behavior management skills
Many children will hit, bite, kick, or throw tantrums at some point during their preschool years. Therefore, teachers need a system to respond to challenging behavior effectively, including using positive reinforcement and establishing rules and boundaries in your classroom. For more severe offenses, teachers may need to use time-outs or have difficult conversations with families about the child's behavior.
Record keeping skills
Teachers must keep track of each child's developmental progress by maintaining attendance records, tracking assessments, and writing anecdotal notes.
Accurate and up-to-date records help identify concerns and track each child's progress. These records are also vital when communicating with families and other professionals.
Child development skills
Teachers need to know what to expect regarding physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. This knowledge helps them create an appropriate curriculum and plan activities that meet the needs of all children. It also allows them to better understand and respond to individual behaviors.
First aid skills
It's important for anyone working with children to have a basic understanding of first aid, including training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Additional health and safety training and being trained on their center’s emergency procedures, including when to call for help and how to follow up after an incident, all help prepare teachers to provide the best possible care to children.
While preschool teachers may not need to be technology experts, having a basic understanding of how to use essential educational software and websites will assist them in their daily job functions. For example, many schools now use digital portfolios to communicate with families, so being able to upload and organize files and photos is essential.
Time management skills
Time is of the essence in a preschool classroom. There are always things to do and very little time to do them in. Thus teachers have to manage their time wisely. For example, they must plan and organize the day, knowing when to delegate tasks to other staff members. It also means keeping the class on track while allowing flexibility.
What makes a good preschool teacher?
Not all people are born to be teachers. You may have some personal qualities that make a good preschool teacher, but not all of them. That's okay! You can always work on developing the traits you need. Here are some of the qualities that make a good preschool teacher:
Children at this age are still learning how to control their emotions and behaviors. They may act out or be disruptive in class. Teachers must be patient and understand that these behaviors are developmentally appropriate.
Teachers must also be patient when communicating with families. Effective communication with families is a key to building strong engagement with your program, and taking the time to understand their perspective will strengthen that partnership.
Children learn best through play and exploration. Therefore, teachers must be creative in their lesson planning and activities to keep children engaged.
When children actively engage in their learning, they retain more information and are more likely to enjoy the process. Also, by being creative, teachers can better differentiate instruction to meet each child's needs.
Preschool teachers are responsible for creating lesson plans that meet the early learning standards of their specific state or program and assessing each child’s progress towards developmental milestones.
Teachers must have solid organization skills to effectively plan lessons and activities and maintain records and documentation on each child’s learning outcomes.
Preschoolers have a lot of energy. They are constantly moving, exploring, and trying new things, so teachers need to be able to keep up with them.
Teachers work with children who are still developing emotionally and socially. That means they may not understand why a child is acting out or why a child is having a difficult time in class.
Teachers will be better equipped to connect with children if they try to see the world from a child’s perspective and have compassion for their experiences. If children feel that their teachers care about them, they are more likely to trust and confide in them.
Preschool teacher skills help you develop lesson plans and activities that stimulate young minds, help children learn new concepts, and make children excited about coming to school each day. These skills also build strong relationships with your children and their families and lead to a career in education, which is a stable and rewarding field.
Enrolling in an accredited early childhood education program is the best way to develop the skills and knowledge you need to be a successful preschool teacher. With the right skills and training, you can make a difference in the lives of young children and their families in many rewarding ways.