My name is Sophia Pappas, and I teach pre-kindergarten at an inner-city public pre-k-through-5 school in New Jersey.
My first experience with pre-k was as a student. The program was called Romper Room, and I remember being disappointed when I realized I wasn't going to be on the TV show. As you can imagine, that horrifying day was no picnic for my mother either. Years later, after studying education policy in college, I enlisted as a Teach For America corps member and began my life as a pre-k teacher in 2004.
I was born and raised on Long Island, the youngest of three children. My sister is an attorney and my brother is a third-grade teacher, which often prompts people to ask if teaching runs in my family. It doesn’t. You're much more likely to see a Pappas arguing before a judge, like my sister, than getting a group of children excited for storytime.
For me, teaching pre-k serves many purposes. First and foremost, there is no more direct way to positively impact children's lives, and I choose to teach in an inner-city area where that impact can be the most dramatic.
A child's first experience with school can mean everything. If it's positive, fun, and motivating, they're much more likely to be enthusiastic about school in the future. It's also often their first experience with their peers, the people they will study, work, and play with for the rest of their lives. If they feel safe, respected, and responsible to and for the other children, if they learn how to really make friends, from very early on, their lives and relationships will be happier and easier.
I've found that pre-k can be a very important experience for parents as well. Often, they are surprised to hear me talk about what I'm doing and how it could be different or better for their children. They expect always to hear about their child's strengths and weaknesses, but not necessarily the teacher's. Helping parents build constructive relationships with teachers can be a crucial piece of their child's future school success, and I've really learned the value of a collaborative approach to education.
Of course, it's also just a joy to spend the day with 14 pre-k kids. I doubt anyone in my adult life will ever be as much fun.
By sharing my classroom and my thoughts, I hope to give you more insight into the benefits of high-quality pre-k and how we can all play a role in creating and improving these vital programs. And I want to know what you think, too, so please don't be shy about leaving comments and using this blog as an outlet for ideas, reflection, and debate.