My experience as a prep teacher began with my wish to be the teacher-librarian. I was so excited at the prospect of developing the library collection and sharing my love of reading with students that I took the job eagerly. Little did I know what a fantastic learning experience I would have. Like all teaching positions I had days that were incredible and some that were not. Each prep teacher has a unique schedule and it can feel somewhat isolating to be alone in the role. Today I’m writing to remind prep teachers of their important role in the school community.
One of the most successful strategies I used as a prep teacher was to develop a very positive and collegial relationship with the homeroom teachers and all support staff. I went to my colleagues for details about students, advice on behaviour management strategies and sometimes we approached students and parents as a team to solve problems we were experiencing. Once we had a grade 1 student who was having the most difficult time remembering his classmates’ names even though he had a great memory for facts and information. He also had frequent falls and collisions when I had him in gym class. His classroom teacher and I had a talk and suggested having his eyes tested. He got his first pair of glasses and he became more confident and skilled in physical education plus he could recognize his classmates and began making friends.
The prep teacher position can be extremely rewarding. I loved seeing students over several years and getting to know some of their unique abilities in the subjects I taught. We developed strong connections even though I was not the homeroom teacher. Getting to know the students over time was also very helpful in making book recommendations during the library period. I knew who wanted the books on soccer, hockey, jokes, pets, art, musicians, etc.
For some students the subject that the prep teacher covers is the highlight of their day or even their week! It’s a highly meaningful and important role to play in the school. I found I could help coordinate school wide events because I worked with so many staff and students. In a large school it can be challenging to know everyone but the prep teacher gets that chance. Students appreciate being recognized and noticed when they walk down a busy hallway. It helps a school feel safer and builds a trusting learning environment.
If you’re a prep teacher I hope you know you are not alone and you can reach out through social media to contact other prep teachers for suggestions. And if you’re not a prep teacher I hope you will consider trying the role one day. It might be just the change you are looking for. Also, let’s tip our collective hats to the prep teachers out there and say thanks for bringing their subjects to life for our students.