I miss working with kids

I started babysitting when I was 14 years old. By the time I was 15, I had four on-going jobs. I also started working as a bagger at Genuardi’s. The parents of the kids I babysat shopped at that Genuardi’s. I was “talked to” on a few occasions for abandoning my work to play with my kids!

In college I started working with kids with autism. I worked for four different families over three years. I went from playmate to teacher, and I relished the role. I also had three practicums and my student teaching experience in college. I became attached to my kids every single time.

When my daughter was an infant, I taught preschool. I loved my job. I couldn’t stand the center where I worked, but I loved my kids and I loved teaching them. I would experience an immense amount of excitement every time I created a new lesson. That excitement would only grow as I watched my students learn and enjoy learning.

I haven’t worked with kids in five years. Of course, I have my daughter – and that’s no small thing. She’s awesome. She keeps me on my toes and lights up my life. I haven’t let my education background go to waste. Just as I am always a writer, I am always a teacher. That joy I feel what I see my daughter “get it” is the same joy I felt when my students would “get it.”

Still, I miss working with kids. I miss making a difference in the lives of children. These feelings have been exaggerated lately. I’ve been rather active in my daughter’s schooling. I enjoy talking with her classmates. Here’s a couple snippets of conversations we had while traveling on field trips.

“Abby’s mom?” one little boy asked.

“Yes?” I responded.

“Do you know all the days?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you smart?”

I told him that I’d like to think that I am. He told me that he’s smart because he works hard, and his mom says that if you work hard, you’ll get smart. I told him, “That is very true. I can tell that you’re very smart.” He smiles.

“Miss Dayle! Miss Dayle!” one little girl exclaimed.

I asked what she wanted to tell me and she did (though for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was). Then I said, “thank you.” She looked at me funny.

“Thank you for remembering my name,” I said. She continued to look at me funny. I said, “Everyone calls me Abby’s mom, but you remembered my name. I appreciate it.”

She smiled and started laughing. She then repeated my name a few times, making sure to draw out the “L” and said, “It’s funny.”

I smiled and said, “Yes it is!”

I went home that day and thought about the conversations I’ve had with children over the years.

I thought about the monosyllabic 12-year-old with autism who said “Merry Christmas” to me when I left on break.

I thought about the beautifully dimpled preschooler (who I deemed my future son-in-law) that I just could not stay mad at because he would look at me, smile, and say, “Miss Dayle, your hair looks pretty today.”

I thought about every smile, every “Aha!” moment, and every hug.

I adore my daughter, but I miss working with kids . . . plural . . . Each child offers something new. Each child teaches me something new. See, I’m not just their teacher; I’m a learner too. And the lessons I learn from children are lessons I could never learn from anywhere else.

I printed out a volunteer application for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). It’s going in the mail tomorrow. I know it won’t be an easy job. I know that emotionally it’s going to tear at me. I also know that I’m ready for the lessons those children will teach me. I want to make a difference in their lives . . . I know they will make a difference in mine.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. I can’t wait to hear your stories about working at Children’s. This post made me smile.

    Reply

    • Thanks Ginny! The application process can take up to 8 weeks, which actually works out well. I should start volunteering right around the time my daughter goes back to school.

      Reply

  2. Love this, Dayle. I am thrilled you are finding your way back to working with kids. Children know a pure and loving heart when they see one.

    Reply

    • Thank you so much! Every so often I start contemplating how I can get back into a field working with children, but political issues always stop me dead in my tracks. I feel really good about this. I know it’s going to be very difficult emotionally, but I feel very deeply like this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now 🙂

      Reply

  3. Awww, your descriptions of the kids you have met are so sweet. When I have kids, I can only hope I find as good of a teacher as I am sure you were and are.
    I can’t wait to hear about your stories of working at the Children’s Hospital either!

    Reply

    • Thank you so much for that incredible compliment! It really means a lot 🙂

      I swear that Bill Cosby has nothing on me with the whole “Kids Say the Darndest Things” bit! Between my daughter and the kids I’ve worked with, I seriously should write a book!

      Reply

  4. Posted by Josh on October 19, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    I googled “missing kids ECE” to see if there’s anyone out there I could relate to. Before even writing all this, Was planning on talking to one of my college counselors regarding this but because it’s after hours and would have to wait ’til Monday, I feel like talking about it to anyone as soon as possible. I’m not looking for an answer but just sharing. I took many breaths before deciding to share this as it is very personal and gutsy considering the male gender bias in this field.

    I’m somewhat opposite. I love kids. I’ve babysat a ton of them the past years and by God’s grace I’ve been trusted by many parents (being a male sitter – no, in anything related to childcare as a male is not easy and equally frustrating). Almost half the parents that come to me are single moms, looking for a male figure for their sons / daughters so I guess you can say there’s a logical reason for that but either way, I was blessed. I really enjoy my time with them and never considered them as labor. Reading them books, playing games together, taking them out to the park and playing with them, feeding them proper nutrition – you name it. I will be their bestest friend.

    With myself thinking since I’m great with them, I decided and have been advised by many how I should take Early Childhood Education. I’m already two months into it along with field placement at a daycare center. It is because of all that, I found out I’m more an uncle than a teacher. Yes I may be great with kids and love to see their faces light up when learning something but it is not in my comfort zone to be a professional for them. It is also the burnout that comes with it. I volunteer being a Sunday School teacher as well a sports leader in\ annual summer camps but on a daily basis, it might turn what I love into something I hate. And as much as I don’t want it to be about the money, it is in part with that. If I want to start a family, settling for just an ECE will not do. I would also rather come home from a hard day of work and see my kid leap into my arms.

    I also find it really upsetting that as an ECE, you are not their friend but a teacher. Many kids at the centre call me by my first name and my co-op teacher would correct them every time by saying “No, you call him Teacher”. I’d remain silent when this happen, feeling rip toned about my identity in that placement. I also question some of their policies as well. I know not all centers are like that but it’s real depressing, despite the exciting colors that fills the room.. I practice discipline as well but watching them cry here is like intentional torture.

    Worse part is I’ve grown attached to one of them as if they were the kid I was babysitting. Since day one, he would not stop talking to me. While it is common that kids just walk up and tell me about their day or themselves (I really don’t know what it is about me that makes it – even when I don’ try at all), he was exceptional. He would follow me, model after me – – we were practically blood brothers. If I were told to make a quick errand between classrooms, he’d say “Jawsh, can I go with you?” He kills me with his voice every time, even when I have to sternly say no to him. We even had a great field trip in fruit/corn/pumpkin picking at a farm site. With the fall season, we all enjoyed the sight of fall colored trees under the just-right sunny weather with sightseeing clouds under the blue sky, as well as going through a “haunted straw maze”. I happen to be his supervisor (each ECE are responsible for 2 or more children) and we all enjoyed our day. On the bus he would sit beside me and talk until he starts feeling sleep and would even ask before doing so if he could sleep on my shoulder. Of course, I had to say no and yet he took it with understanding.

    You might as well say we ended our last day together very well as that was his last day with the day care center. I left my shift without even saying goodbye because I knew I wouldn’t be able to take it by the time his mother picks him up and bid his final farewell. And I was right. I was crying a river (not like a baby, mind you) silently to myself when walking home while the weather just HAD to contrast with my emotions by being sunset beautiful with fall leaves casting silhouettes, reminding me of our day earlier. Until shutting my bedroom door, I released the emotional wreck I’ve never been before to the point where I’m ashamed to admit it. I was already fighting back tears when I had to sort through all his things to take home with him for good, remembering each hand out work sheet like a memoir from the little-lest of detail such as when he coloured that particular train brown a bit out of the line, or the letter “K” I helped him write. I would have to step out of the classroom every five sheets to wipe my tears and ask myself the stupid question I already answered: “Why am I crying?”

    I am now depressed and already accepted the fact I will never see him again. And it’s not like as an ECE, you can say “Your child and I were best friends, when can I see him again?” Even I would be freaked out of myself for saying that and it’s totally understandable.

    And that was only within that time frame, imagine having to do that all over again with many kids at the end of my placement, or every year as an ECE or a school teacher. I guess with my case, you can’t generalize it with everybody, maybe even too unique to even put in one sentence. I’m never this emotional but I now know my limits. I can’t deal with too many kids otherwise I’d have to miss them every time every year, as well as the stress that comes with it. It’ll certainly work with others but I know I’m not the one. As of now, I am taking time off from children out of what happened. I even lied to my “clients” and told them that “I can’t babysit this month because of school” (half truth there). I even plan to stop my ECE studies and look into another career. Like I said before, I’d rather come home to a child than miss many.

    Reply

    • Josh,

      First off, thank you for opening up here. I feel honored that you felt comfortable sharing about something so important to you.

      I don’t know how much I can help, but I do think reflection and self-awareness are wonderful things. It’s obvious that you put a lot of thought into this and I suggestion you follow your heart.

      I think there are two things necessary for teaching children before you even consider the actual skills involved – a love for kids and I love for teaching. It’s apparent that you have the first part of that in abundance, but that you don’t have much of the second part. It’s important to know that there’s nothing wrong with that.

      I think it’s better that you alter your path now than continue with something that doesn’t make you happy.

      I always had trouble leaving my students. I always became more attached than I was supposed to. Though I did learn to live with it, I don’t think it’s something everyone can do. I was lucky in that I did keep in touch with some of my preschoolers’ parents through social media. I don’t see the kids anymore, but it’s nice to see updates on how they are doing. Still, I know that’s a rarity.

      I never did end up volunteering at CHOP – life got in the way and I don’t want to make a commitment to something I don’t know if I could follow through with. I think the way you volunteer in your community are wonderful and should not be taken lightly. It’s a great way to help enrich the lives of children, make your heart happy, and not have to settle for a career that doesn’t work for you.

      While I am very much of the belief that we need more good men in this field, I also fully believe that you need to do what makes you happy first. Listening to the advice of others can be helpful, but in the end, it is your decision and you have to do what is right for you.
      Good luck to you, Josh! I wish you the absolute best as your figure out your next move and beyond. I would love it if you followed up and let me know how things are working out!

      All the best,
      Dayle

      Reply

  5. Posted by crystal Rae on October 12, 2013 at 4:17 am

    this is a lovely story. I too miss working with kids. I got out of the field 10 years ago because I couldn’t find a family I could trust, or a preschool or director who was reasonable of respectful. so I gave up hope. I’ve been working in retail for 5 years, children that come in my store are the brightest highlights of my day. my fridge is covered with their art work. I can only hope some day soon I can find my dream family to work for. I’ll love you an you’ll love me an we will have a agreeable partnership. I can’t wait to find you!! and miss Dayle your story brought tears to my eyes. ha as if I wasn’t crying already. good luck to you and be strong at children’s.

    Reply

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