We recently sat down with Rebecca Lemp, the lead teacher in one of our K3 classrooms, for an interview. We talked about her background and teaching experience and asked her to speak directly to parents about common experiences with preschoolers.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My family moved down south when I was thirteen. I come from a large family.
There are twelve kids in my family and I am one of the oldest ones, so I've always been around kids and helped out with them. I think that’s where I grew to have a love for working with children!
How did you get into teaching?
After getting an undergrad and graduate degree from Bob Jones University, I went down to Ecuador, South America, and worked as a missionary for a year and a half.
While there I was given the opportunity to teach English in a public school. I had about 300 students ranging from first to seventh grade. I had no curriculum whatsoever, so I had to make it all up. No textbooks.
Teaching English gave me a love for teaching. I'd taught Bible classes for as long as I can remember—Sunday School, that sort of thing—but getting into an academic teaching situation was where my desire to teach really began to grow.
After I served in Ecuador, I returned to Charlotte. The director (of Bible Baptist Preschool) approached me and said that they were looking for someone to help out as an afternoon caretaker for the kids. I accepted and soon began working at the preschool.
I loved it from the beginning! I especially enjoyed working with the parents when they came in. I was able to chat with them and talk with them about their kids. That really opened my eyes to the importance of parent/teacher communication.
Working afternoon care and sometimes subbing during the mornings prepared me for becoming a teacher. I'm actually in my first year of teaching right now. I have a wonderful class. I love it! I have a lot of ethnic groups in my class, and I love being able to work with each student and learn from them.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
I loved my kindergarten teacher, mainly because of her enthusiasm with her class and the way she loved her students.
One of the biggest things I remember from her class was story time with her and her reading book series to us. That actually really wet my appetite for book reading and gave me a love for books!
Looking back on it, that experience showed me how teachers can really influence their students as well.
What do you most enjoy about teaching at a Christian preschool?
I love being able to share about God with the kids and being able to work that into my curriculum.
I love being able to use the Bible even in corrective discipline with the kids when we have to talk about situations that have happened. And it also gives me a basis for knowing how to deal with the students.
What advice do you have for parents who have for kids who struggle with separation anxiety?
It's good for parents to have a schedule for their child when they drop them off. One of the biggest problems with the separation anxiety is prolonging it for the child. That actually does more harm to the child than good as the child has more time to feel anxiety over mom or dad leaving.
It helps if mom and dad will have some little routine, like fist pounding or a quick hug and a kiss. Then just hand them off to the teacher or the morning caregiver. That really goes a whole lot further to helping the child than to let it drag out and let the child get worked up about mom and dad leaving.
Kids get over things fairly quickly. The children will play off of whatever the parent is teaching them. If the parent is talking the separation up and making it a big deal, the child will follow that example.
What advice would you give to parents prepping their child for preschool this fall?
One of the big things is to help the child get used to a schedule. In a school setting, there's always a schedule.
Some kids are just used to doing whatever they want whenever they want. If parents can help their child understand what a schedule feels like—like, "We do this at a certain time, and then we do this, and this is our next activity"—that goes a long way.
Another thing would be to get them involved with other children—especially for families when there's only one child in the home. Parents with only one child may not realize it, but their child is more likely going to have a hard time interacting with other students than children from homes with multiple children.
Most of my only-child students, they're the ones that have the hardest time sharing with the other students. They have a hard time waiting their turn. Sometimes they even struggle being rude to others because they've never had siblings they have to wait on.
If mom and dad can work with their child in not giving them what they want when they want, but instead showing them how he/she can wait, how he/she should not interrupt an adult, and how he/she should take turns (things like that), this could help eliminate some behavioral issues that arise when beginning to attend preschool.
These behavioral problems can initially hinder a child from learning. The teacher sometimes has to spend a whole lot more time on behavioral issues than academic ones.
How can parents partner with their child's teacher?
Communication is key to the child's well-being and success. If a parent knows of something that is going on with the child, it really helps if he/she can communicate that with the teacher.
For instance, if a child just had a bad night's sleep, it helps for the parent to tell the teacher, "Hey, he slept poorly last night. He might have an off day today." That helps the teacher know how to better handle the child. Even just moving to a different house can dramatically affect a child.
So if parents can just communicate about any changes that could affect their child, it goes a long way to helping the child do better in school.
2. Discipline Matters
In regards to discipline matters, when a teacher communicates a discipline problem to a parent, it may not be the first time something has happened.
But it’s a sign that the teacher is reaching out and saying, "Hey, this is becoming an issue." And then, it's really vital that the parent does get on board with discipline matters.
If a teacher sends a note home about a discipline issues, it's important that the parents sit down at home with the child and talk about it and say, "Hey, teacher and I are a team and we're working together in this. If you do something at school, there's going to be a consequence for that here at home."
Some children may be acting out at school, but when they leave school there's a special prize/treat in the car. This creates confusion for the child in understanding that mom and dad are not happy with disobedience at school.
Children need to know that mom and dad are on board with the teacher in discipline issues and that teacher and parents are a team.
That really goes a long way. And I've had some wonderful, wonderful parents in regards to that.
3. Getting Sufficient Sleep
Sometimes parents will know that their child get up at night to play or watch TV. That causes big problems the next day at school—always, without a shadow of a doubt.
Parents need to know what their child is doing and know that things at home will affect the child at school.
It’s important that a child’s teacher comes on board as part of the family because children are going to be with their teacher for about as much time as the parents are with them. There must be lots of open communication between the parents and the teachers.