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Teaching Assistant at the Buen Dia Family School; Harris-Brewer ’25

Working at Buen Dia has taught me the complexities of working as a teacher, childhood development, and the culture that San Francisco has to offer. When I first started working at Buen Dia I had some history of babysitting in my family, and while it definitely has come in handy, it is nothing compared to actually working in a preschool. The children are not my family, so they have to get used to me. I have to be a substitute parent while their parents are at work. Finally, I have to entertain, resolve issues, and help them learn and grow as humans before it’s time to go home, eat dinner and do it all over again. In this article I will be going over those things and how they have changed me as a student, human, and past child myself. 

My first day I wasn’t actually around the kids as much because I was doing paperwork, but the second day was when I was actually working on the floor, and it was nice, the kids were talking to me and immediately recognized me as “teacher”, I wouldn’t be graced with “Teacher Trinity” until I started working a bit more. The kids were on their best behavior, adhering to the redirections and with a cute face asking me to play with them, read to them, and gasping when I told them my “big” age. I felt like Cady when she said, “Regina seems sweet”. I had yet to realize that these children were children, which leads me to possibly the hardest day of the job yet. I had been kicked, yelled at, hit, spit on, and threatened in just the last forty minutes of the day. It was awful and I felt so guilty for even telling the head teacher, but he was nice and showed me how to discipline the children when that happens.

I wanted to cry, I felt so defeated. But I came back, and I realized that these people are trying out what its like to be mean, because they don’t necessarily understand that it doesn’t feel good to be hurtful to people. They are trying out personalities and unfortunately that day I was the guinea pig. Also, I thought back to my childhood, and every time I was rude to my teacher or mean to them, and the politics that led me to make those decisions, the environment that I was in, and how I felt for them redirecting me. I felt like a child, like everything I wanted to do someone wanted to tell me no. Learning this has helped me gather so much appreciation for the people in the academia setting that helped me grow and learn. They deserve more than a random week out of the school year to be appreciated, and they definitely deserve a raise. Back to the Buen Dia story. After this situation I learned: 

1- Not to take what they say personally, they’re trying on personalities. 

2- Set boundaries, and make consequences for their actions because it is my job to make sure they understand that their behavior will not be tolerated. 

I want to expand on number two, these children are majority children of color, and unfortunately their behavior is surveilled and criminalized at a much higher rate than white children. I just wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that I’m not doing anything to stop unacceptable behavior before the education system and enforcement get to punish them ruthlessly. This runs through my head every time I’m redirecting a child. It hurts and it feels weird to be in this position, but that’s what I have to do, that’s my substitute parent job. Sometimes, the redirection works, and sometimes I have to keep explaining myself, but I have to be consistent because that’s what they need. With that consistency, comes love. 

I get “teacher, I love you” at least once a day and it breaks my heart because I know I won’t be here after March. I even talked to the kids about it for a little. I don’t think they get that I’m not gonna be here for long, but I’m proud of myself and them for having the conversation. Everyday I feel myself getting more attached to them. I look at a stuffie and I know who’s stuffie it is, I know that this kid is allergic too, I know how this kid likes their bed done for descanso (rest in Spanish). I know that this child has a hard time during group so I should keep an eye on them, I know that this kid has a hard time missing their mom after nap, so I should give them a bit more attention. I even think of ways to be consistent with discipline when I’m getting ready for bed.

These children have changed my life as I know it and I thank them greatly for that. But, with attachment, comes the actual attachment. One time I was late to my lunch break because a child would not let go of me. I felt so guilty, and I just wanted to go eat my paella. It makes me feel bad for the future, when I have to leave officially. But, it humbles me. I’m not gonna be here forever, I have to get my ‘gree, as one child in my group would call it. I’m moving on for both parties, just like they will move on to go to kindergarten and be the coolest kids there, just like I’m the self appointed coolest kid in my school ;).

The politics at a preschool are so much more different than at Antioch. I think during the “run around the chairs while making animal noises to the tune of old macdonald with a tambourine” game (while also holding another child who was missing her mother) was the point when I genuinely thought “what was my life come to?”. My life was so different just a few months ago, I was going to parties, realizing my political allegiance, and finding myself in rocky friendships. Now, I’m resolving a dispute between four-year olds about how many mommies can be in one household. And reading this you would be surprised how much it comes up. I always say, “there can be more than one mommy”, “there can be more than one big sister”, “three baby kitties is not too many kitties”, “families look different and anyone can be what they want”. It’s honestly relieving for my inner child. To not only recognize but also enforce this idea that families come in so many different shapes and sizes.

I guess that’s where the overlap between Buen Dia and Antioch lie. These children are helping me learn and grow just as much as I hope I am helping them. I am excited to see more of what Buen dia has to offer me, and the future Antioch students that decide to co-op here. Here is the link to Buen Dia Family school, show them some love.

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