Not long ago, Lindsay Chapman may have been described as a misplaced, underworked employee at a local catholic school.
Eager for increased opportunity and responsibility, Chapman came to Salt Lake Community College South City Campus in October 2013, where she has been working five days a week as a preschool teacher.
“I have to do a lesson plan every week,” Chapman says. “I have to plan a large group, which is where all the kids sit at the table and we do cutting, painting and things like that. And I then I have to do small groups where I take two or three of the kids and we just work on counting or colors or shapes.”
Today, Chapman is an elementary education major in her second year of studies.
As she pursues a career in teaching, Chapman is aware of the thankless nature of the profession. Despite knowing what lies ahead, she is proud of the rewards this job provides her with.
“I just like seeing kids happy,” says Chapman of her favorite aspects of the job. “When parents come to pick them up and they don’t want to go home because they love it there.”
For some, preschool is no more than a synonym for babysitting. While childcare is an inherent component of the job, Chapman views her role as far more critical than what she is given credit for.
Understanding the impressionable, sponge-like makeup of her students has given Chapman all the inspiration she needs.
“A lot of people don’t realize this, but when kids are little they learn so much,” says Chapman. “Their brains are sponges. The more you teach them, the more they learn, the better off they’ll be.”
Unlike traditional four year universities that are dominated by an 18-22 year old demographic, SLCC boasts a wider age range making up the student body. Many of SLCC’s students are parents as well.
Due to these circumstances, the formative years of early childhood education and development can become a preschool teacher’s responsibility wholly rather than the parents.
In this way, Chapman’s viewpoint on the importance of responsible preschool teaching is reinforced.
“The majority of the parents that bring their kids [to the preschool] are in school,” says Chapman. “They’re going to school full-time, they have a full-time job and they get home and they have their own homework to do.”
Onsite preschools are located at the Taylorsville Redwood and South City campuses. Parents are given the option of morning, afternoon or all-day sessions for their kids to attend. Depending on the age group and the education level of the teacher, class sizes range from 6 to 15 kids.
For many of the children, preschool offers an understanding of a daily schedule. These early lessons and experiences are what Chapman hope resonates with kids as they continue to grow.
“I look back at my KinderCare days and I loved it,” says Chapman. “I really hope the kids that I’m with now don’t look back on their time at South City and hate it. Because when you’re young, you’re so impressionable and it changes your whole life.”
Due to the young ages of preschool students, SLCC teachers follow a particular framework in instructing their classes. As one might expect, meticulous adjustments are a necessity for the delicate psyche of a small child.
“We’re not supposed to discipline, we don’t do timeout or anything like that,” says Chapman. “We do positive reinforcement. Instead of telling kids what they’re doing wrong, we tell them what to do instead.”
Chapman will graduate from SLCC following the 2015 spring semester. She hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah.
Once graduated, however, Chapman looks to teach abroad as opposed to staying in state due to the current climate of Utah’s public education system.
“Once I get my degree, I want to join the military and teach in bases across the world,” says Chapman. “I would like to do that ten times more than work at a public school here in Utah. Once I get my degree, I’ll probably go elsewhere.”
Regardless of location, Chapman is resigned to a career that offers little in the way of prosperity. But as she sees it, money is a secondary motive at best.
“Teachers make nothing, and they have such an important job. My dad tries to talk me out of being a teacher all the time, but it’s not really about the money. In a lot of ways, you do it for the kids.”