His reaction was not what I expected. "Oh," he said, with a look of commiseration on his face, "well, I'm sure it's just a foot in the door, and they'll move you up to Kindergarten soon."
I was pretty stunned. Since then, I have thought of perhaps a dozen or more things I would say, but in the moment I had children to attend to, so I merely said, "No, it's real teaching. It's a good thing."
Now, I know perfectly well that early childhood educators have an image problem. But it still stopped me in my tracks to see his look of disappointment on my behalf. The idea that those who teach preschool are teachers who aren't quite ready for prime time sounds ludicrous to me, but it's a perception that's alive and well out there.
If I had a moment more to talk with him and formulate my thoughts, I would have talked about the crucial importance of the four-year-old year. I would have mentioned neuroplasticity. I would have sited studies on the life-long value of a quality preschool experience. I would have told him that it's not just real teaching, but that it's real learning, too. I would have told him that I'm exactly where I want to be, that I will have a life-time supply of intellectually stimulating challenges in this environment, and that I can well imagine teaching Pre-Kindergarten for the rest of my life.
I'll have my one-minute speech on the value of early childhood education better prepared next time. One parent educated, a few million more to go.