Preschool Teacher Trade Secrets

I worked in the preschool and child care industry for many years. Although typically regulated by the state, no preschool or child care center is perfect. The things that I have seen over the years have often made my head spin. You trust that your child's preschool or child care setting is safe, legal, and focused on your child, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Here are some of the more "troubling" things I saw during my 15 years working in the field.

Not All Care is Created Equal

In many states, preschool teachers must have certain qualifications to work alone with children. These qualifications are usually verified by the school's director or lead administrator. However, in a bind and in desperate need for a teacher, directors have been known to cut corners. Over the years I have had the "pleasure" of taking over five preschool and child care centers when the prior director was dismissed or resigned. In all five cases, I had at least one teacher that was not legally qualified to work alone with children. In some instances, the teachers had less than half of the required course work completed and in one case, the teacher didn't have any of the required course work (she was dismissed immediately). Parents trust that they are leaving their child with someone that is qualified, however there aren't any required documents that preschool teachers must provide to prove they are qualified. In one case, I found out my own one-year-old son was being supervised by a young lady who was not only missing more than half of the required course work, but had failed the courses she had taken. Tip: Ask what courses your caregiver has completed and, if appropriate, ask to see state licensing documents which show that the person's records have been reviewed by a community care licensing representative from the state. This insures the caregiver is adequately qualified to work with your child.

Preschool Teacher Overview

Job Outlook

Preschool teachers held 457,200 jobs in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Due to high turnover rate, employment opportunities for preschool teachers are expected to be excellent.

Companies Hiring Preschool Teachers

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$23,870: Average annual salary of computer software engineers according to the May 2009 BLS report.

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Your Supplies May Get Used by Other Children

If you have a child in diapers, you may want to keep careful track of your supplies. I have seen diapers, wipes and creams that belong to one child get used for other children. Although this is not usually company policy, it does happen. Tip: Keep track of your supplies. As inconvenient as it may be to bring them in weekly, it makes it much easier to track how much is being used.

Check Them Out

In many cases, you can contact your state licensing department and request a background, incident and reporting history for the child care or preschool that you are considering. You just might even discover some interesting facts about the school. Once, when applying for a job as the director of a preschool, I found out from my state licensing office that the following incidents had recently occurred at the school: a child had been bitten by a classroom's pet rat and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment; a teacher had been terminated for slapping a child across the face; parents had reported that they entered a classroom to find their children unattended; and a 3-year-old child had escaped the building and was later found at the gas station across the street. Needless to say, if I was a parent, I would never put my child in that school.


Little hands are busy and covered in germs. Toys are put into kids' mouths and are handled by tiny fingers that have been in noses and other parts of the body. Germs pass easily from child to child and children get sick. Although teachers are often diligent about keeping their classrooms clean and all schools have policies and procedures for cleaning, this is often not enough. Children under five don't always (if ever) cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, may forget to wash their hands after using the restroom, and sometimes drink from classmates' cups. Also, parents have a tendency to drop their children off at school when they are sick because they don't have back-up care. Some parents even go to extreme lengths to avoid having to take the day off to keep their kids at home. I once had a parent dye her child's hair blonde in an attempt to remedy a horrible case of head lice so her child could go to school.

The Money

Schools and care centers have to make a profit too. They have budgets and enrollment quotas to meet just like other businesses. Just because we're dealing with cute little kids doesn't mean you won't get sent to collections or charged late fees. Part of my daily job was chasing down parents that owed money. Sometimes I even had to suspend a child from school because his parents were behind in payments. Parents were also charged full or partial tuition to "hold their spots" in classrooms that were not even close to being full to enable the administrators to take the summer off or go on vacation over the holidays.

Teachers Are Under-Paid

Would you work alone in a classroom for eight hours with 12 two-year-olds all potty training for $8.00 an hour? Many teachers are paid well under what you might expect. Although you're paying $169 a week for your child to be in Miss Mary's class along with 11 other children (that's $7,436 in tuition a month to the school) your child's teacher is still only making $8.00 an hour. That means before taxes, insurance costs, 401K and whatever else is taken out of the teacher's salary, she makes $1,280 a month or $15,360 a year.

There are a lot of schools out there that are wonderful, but not many are perfect. Do your homework and don't simply "trust" that everything is on the up and up when selecting care. Most schools truly have your child's best interest at heart -- but it's up to you to gather as much information as possible so you can make an educated decision before you enroll.

Next: Confessions of an Elementary School Teacher

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October 11 2011 at 5:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Do you think people in child care centers really care about your children as much as you care about them (your own children)? No. The way those people treat your children is governed by employers’, cities’, and state’s rules and regulation. Just like people working in other industries, people in child care industry need money to live. Although those people like children, they do not have the same level of passion, love, and empathy that the parents have toward their children. Having passion, love, and empathy are inherent personal attributes. No body can teach you how to feel the same way and level that he/she feels about people.
Only and only parents can provide their children with the desired level of care, love, and passion.
So parents, if you are not willing to spend more time your lovely and beloved children, then do not complain when your send your children to child care canters or preschools only to find out that your children do not get the level of care your are expecting.
Spend more time with your kids, not with your jobs. If you are not willing to take the responsibility of nurturing your own kids during the first few years of life or if you do not have trusted people (like your parents, siblings) with whom you can leave your children while you are at jobs satisfying your boss to get [more] money, then you are nor well prepared to become parents and you are not ready to make professional sacrifices until your children start going to schools. You have made a bad decision and taken a premature step (becoming parent). The victims are both your children and you.

September 05 2010 at 1:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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August 26 2010 at 6:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HOLD ON! I am a daycare provider, for over 20 years. Let me tell you about PARENTS! I have had to rob Peter's diaper bag to clean up Paul because mommy only allows 2 diapers per day. Jenny comes smelling like pee everyday cuz she's still wearing her nightime diaper. Bobby came in yesterday eating ice cream for breakfast cuz they were out of bread and milk. Alex hasn't had a bath at home all week cuz the water got turned off for non-payment. SOME PEOPLE HAVE TO WORK! There's no other option except foster care. Daycare workers get all the bad press but no one gives credit for the TLC, going above & beyond the call of duty, little extras, and breaks to needy families that we give. We work 10-12 hours a day, and wait 6 weeks for food program reimbursement and subsidy payments AFTER the fact. We play taxi-driver picking kids up from school. Etc etc etc. There's ALWAYS gonna be more to the story behind the scenes and the author should know that. Shame on her for not giving a fully rounded accounting.

August 26 2010 at 5:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why do people think the government should pay for their childs day care. Ask what you can do for your country not what your country can do for you. I pay for my day care and have to sacrifice time with my husband to work different hours and sacrifice other things to be able to pay for my childs day care. I dont want to sacrifice more to pay for yours!!!!

August 26 2010 at 4:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

and pjm, you are a jackass. I can say that as a very proud parent and teacher

August 26 2010 at 3:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh my gosh, just read through the rest of the posts and I am truly disgusted. It isn't about sacrifices of parents, or taxes or any of that.... it is the fact that those of you posting are fricking lucky to have people who care for your children on a daily basis and you should count your blessings.

You think it is glamorous to potty train your child, or change their poopy pants when they have an accident. You think it is a fabulous recognition and we win an award when your child decides to throw their food or dump their milk 5 times while being calmly told "that is not ok". You think it is wonderful to have a child crying for hours on your lap during nap time because they are in a new environment, scared and their parent is not there.

No, it doesn't come down to taxes, heat, light or even the wages being paid. It comes down to the very special person that cares about YOUR KID enough to make them be ok during those situations.

As I said before, I would love for all parents to do our job for one week so they can see where their money is going... I'll bet they would appreciate it a whole lot more and quit griping about everything else.

August 26 2010 at 3:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As someone who has been in the child care industry, in-home and as an out of home job for almost 20 years I will agree with some aspects of this article. Yes, some of these things go on in our industry there is no doubt. I agree with teacher salaries being ridiculous in relation to daycare costs, I agree with daily things that were stated in the article. However, I believe there are a lot of good daycares out there that adhere to policy and , come on, it is ridiculous to say they are responsible for parents who bring their children sick, or being angry because a child has been bitten by a pet. We, as parents want our children exposed to new experiences but without the responsibility if something goes differently than expected. We put our children in daycare out of necessity but also because we want them exposed to others and learn "life". Thies article made it seem as if parents should be fearful of the "bad". Well it happens in daycare, it happens in school, it happens... that is what life is about. These teachers work hard, take the classes needed, often at their own expense, because they have a gift for being with children. Anyone who thinks it is an easy job is a fool and should try it for a week. There is criteria that these teachers have to meet while still dealing with the wild cards of dealing with all of these growning personalities on a daily basis, yes for $8.00 an hour. Be thankful when you encounter those individuals who are doing it because they truly care about kids, rat bites, germs and all. They certainly aren't doing it to get rich... they are doing it because they care about kids. It's the stupid parents and "daycare rules" that kick them in the ass. Personally, through all of my many years I would much rather have someone care about my child than worry if they have adhered to policy and washed their hands 15 times.

August 26 2010 at 3:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have done daycare out of my home for 33 years,and the stories I can tell you are nothing like this women is telling you.I have a lot of single moms AND dads. You shouldn't have to pay a high price to have your child get good care.I don't make very much money, but some of my parents don't either, they need care so they can buy food for thier child.The ones that are abuseing the daycare, or the ones that are on a groverment progam.I've had them go camping for days, and leave their child at daycare, because they know the state is paying for it. Then I've had a grandmother whos daughter died with 3 children, left behind and the state wouldn't help her at all. I've had parents come to me telling me how bad thier child was cared for in a daycare center.Like they were aninmals hearded together. Some of those children I've had for years, and they are happy.The stories I could tell are nothing to what this woman is telling you. Do you know what it is like to have a little 4 year old come to me and say Linda I love you will you tell my daddy to stop hitting my mommy. ( and he was a fireman) tells you a lot don't it. I cryed for days.Yes I don't get paid much only enought to get food and supplies for they children. You can said I don't spell well or my typing sucks.I don't care but if you really want to know about what goes on in daycare ask me.

August 26 2010 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree. My husband and I each had full-time jobs when we had our baby. We needed both jobs to make ends meet. But I refused to put my baby in the care of a stranger. I don't care how qualified they say they are, they ARE strangers who will not love and care for my baby like I would. My job was working with profoundly developmentally delayed and physically challenged children, ages 0-10yrs, and even though I loved each child and did the most to make sure they got enough attention and love, it never was as good as I thought they would have gotten if they had been receiving one-on-one attention from a parent. Some weekends I had 21+ children on our ward who had only me to care for them as we were so understaffed. I made sure all 21 were bathed, fed, dressed in PJs, snuggled in beds/cribs and sung to sleep (I sang lullabys to the entire room) and although they were all given the utmost care I know they all deserved more individual quality time.
Long story short is..I REFUSED to have my child's care & love be some stranger's 2nd priority. So my husband and I decided to work different shifts so our daughter would not have to be in daycare. One of us was at home with her while the other was working. It was hard on us, but NOT on our daughter. We kept this arrangment until she was in first grade, and then both worked while she was in school. That was back in the 70's & 80's. Nowadays there are so many more dangers to your child when you let strangers raise them (ie: daycare). Pediphiles and other perverts gravitate towards these places, and often even if they are not actually hired, they can be "volunteers" and slip under the radar. As strongly as I felt about NOT using daycares back then, I would be absolutely terrified to use them today.

August 26 2010 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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