District Opening Day Remarks!
This morning was District Day for the Windham Southeast School District, in which educators from all of our schools in the district gathered together to welcome a new school year. We had the pleasure of hearing many moving and motivating speeches at the assembly, and wanted to share one from Coretta Bliss, Lead Teacher in our Birge Nest Meadowlarks classroom with all of you:
Hello, my name is Coretta Bliss. I’m a lead teacher in an infant toddler classroom at Early Education Services. I came to EES in 2007, with several years experience teaching at a variety of early education programs, so I had a sense of what I was looking for in a workplace. I had seen how quickly morale can plummet when a program doesn’t have adequate leadership or doesn’t value their employees. At EES and WSESU I found understanding and supportive administrators, caring and dedicated staff, and a workplace culture that valued self-reflection and self-evaluation with an eye to self-improvement. I also found a place where I could earn enough to support myself as a single mom with two teenagers (some of you may have had my children, Anne-Marie and Daniel, in your classrooms at one time or another). It’s pretty well known that early education is an under-paid and undervalued profession, but EES has the advantage of being part of WSESU which means that although my starting salary as a toddler teacher wasn’t a lot, the benefits EES was able to offer through the district made a huge difference,Then and now, having benefits like health and dental plans, life insurance, and matching retirement savings, helps me feel more secure and prepared for the future, and the generous leave time policy ensures that I can take paid time off regularly to avoid burnout.
When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I teach toddlers, the most common response I get is, “Wow, that sounds fun.” And it is. It’s fun, and it’s hard, and it’s rewarding…and frustrating…and exhilarating…and exhausting. I look forward to going to work every morning – and I can’t wait to get out at the end of the day. I go home and forget about the day. I listen to the radio, or do a puzzle, or play my guitar. And then something I read, or hear, or see, reminds me of work and I start thinking about one of my students, or a lesson plan, and then I’m brainstorming behavior strategies or circle time activities, and pretty soon I can’t wait to get back to the classroom.
There are two things I enjoy about being an early educator. The first is that I love figuring kids out. I love to observe them and learn how they learn so I can learn how I can teach them better. I am fascinated by the science behind brain development and how it relates to learning and behavior. The second is that I get to focus not only on academic skills, but on social skills and practical skills too. As my supervisor Kim Freeman says, “Yes, preschool is about kindergarten readiness, but it’s also about life readiness.” So while we are constantly embedding cognitive skills into our routines (i.e. naming, comparing, classifying and counting foods at meal times) we are also teaching skills like self-regulation, empathy, negotiation, and dressing, feeding, and toileting. I want the children who leave my classroom and end up in some of your classrooms to be ready to explore, ready to engage, and ready to tell you what they think, what they want, and what they need.
I also know that when the children who leave my classroom go off to some of your classrooms, you will be ready for them. You will be ready to meet them where they are at, build strong relationships with them, and support their learning and development just as I have. I know this because I know a lot of the teachers in our district. I have friends who teach at BUHS, BAMS, and nearly all the elementary schools, so I know firsthand how many amazing teachers and staff we are fortunate to have. Some of you have been doing this a long time and some of you are just starting out this week. So here’s my hope for you this coming school year: I hope you look forward to going to work every morning. And if you can’t wait to go home at the end of the day, I hope that you also can’t wait to go back the next morning, and the morning after that.
Coretta also included the following advice for new teachers: “Wear comfortable shoes and be patient with yourself and others.”