Preschool, Year One: The Good, the Bad and the How’d I Get So Ugly?

Thomas the Tank Engine is creeping back from my childhood, and not because he’s the 2001 version of Tickle Me Elmo. That’s my daily affirmation that I can push through these last few days of baby school and get through directing a summer camp. I’m beat, I’m spent, I’m a card house waiting for someone to just blow. I think I can, I think I can…

This first year of preschool has seen its share of both good and bad. Good in the sense that I could adapt, use the creativity I found I had in high school with a lower level, receive hugs and kisses every few moments, and watch my kids grow physically and emotionally, as well as intellectually. Bad in the sense that I’ve cowered away from responsibilities, crumbled under pressure like never before, and let my emotions get the best of me. Last week, for example, we had out annual Summer Show. At the last minute, I was told I needed to do a theater in English. I chose the five-year-olds’s favorite song, assigned parts to the most able students and prayed for a miracle. It was a disaster, a complete and udder kaka. The mics didn’t work, the kids froze. I cried, unable to catch my breath or face the parents who so regularly compliment me. It took me till the next day to face up to myself and say, they’re kids, they’re small, they barely speak their own language. I think I can.

There are times when I remember how beautiful it is to work with small kids. Last night at the 5 años celebration, Bea talked about the wonder of letting adults into the marvelous world of a small child. It’s really true. I had students excited to learn English, and every other subject, eager to tell me the most minute details of their lives (including baby brother’s eating habits), willing to do anything for their seño. I laughed, and a lot. I sang until my throat hurt.

baby steps

It’s certainly been a year of discovery  – discovering my own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher, discovering how a child’s brain works. Discovering how to have a bad day and let the kids make it better. And, most importantly, discovering that I could push myself just like I pushed the kids.

I will miss some of my kids dearly, their open minds and their silliness. I will not, however, miss JJ and D play fighting (resulting in A cutting his lip yesterday). I get a whole new crop of babies next year and I worry about taming them and charming them like I have my five-year-olds.

All grown up

For better or for worse, I survived. I have a year of real teaching under my belt, and I landed on my feet in the end. Actually, I surprised myself.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. […] aisle and party all night (only to fly to Madrid for a conference the next morning. I made it!). And I got my first real year of teaching done, too! love this […]

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