Pre-K Teachers — Are You Being Strangled by Rules and Regulations?
by: Bethany Jarrell
My name is Bethany Jarrell and I am a proud preschool teacher from the Alamogordo Public Schools that also serves as your current NEA-NM Vice President. During my 17 years of teaching in this state, I have seen many program changes at the preschool level. As educators, we all know how important it is for our very youngest students to have both a positive and engaging start to their journey in public education. When I first started teaching preschool, public schools only offered Developmentally Delayed preschool programs. My classes, at that time, were half day so students were only in the program for three hours a day at four days per week. I never had more than 12 students at a time, with two Education Assistants supporting every class. Teaching preschool has always been, and always will be challenging, but I was able to tailor instruction to my specific students’ needs and enjoyed seeing my 3- and 4-year-old students learn and grow so much as a result. These DD programs are so important for early intervention, but they only support a limited population of students.
Over the years, I have seen many changes and substantial growth to preschool programs. This led to NM PreK, which gives much greater access for kids to be part of a learning environment. I, myself, transitioned into teaching NM PreK two years ago when my District was awarded a grant through the state and was very excited to have the opportunity to teach general education preschool students along with my DD students. My program now consists of five full days a week with 16 students and one Education Assistant. I thought I was going to have so much time to do amazing things with my students. Unfortunately, as I learned more about all of the requirements that go along with NM PreK, I realized that I had far less control over my students’ education because NM PreK also came with an inordinate amount of training that, while valuable, was very difficult to fit into my work hours.
This year I have stepped away from the classroom and am working as a Professional Practice and Policy Teaching Fellow with NEA that is focused exclusively on early childhood education in New Mexico. As a part of that focus, I have had the opportunity to talk with numerous PreK teachers around the state who have encountered many of the same issues that I have shared, including the overwhelming training load, the very prescriptive training requirements, and how the biweekly coaching cycles take a tremendous amount of time that simply don’t allow what is needed to work on the goals themselves.
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