This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
If you want to understand the life of a nursery teacher, imagine sitting next to a screaming child on a plane, then multiply that feeling by 20 – then imagine having to wipe shit off that stranger's child.
That's Antonia's* daily life. For the past decade, she's been working as a nursery teacher in Essen, a city in western Germany. Antonia and her two colleagues look after 22 children, ranging from two to six years old. As much as she claims to love the kids, there are some children – and parents – who make her job impossible.
I asked Antonia about the worst things she's had to deal with as a nursery teacher, which I've written down below so you can find out too.
There's one aggressive punk in every year. I once had a five-year-old who bit, scratched and spat at me. After a while, it became too much. I wanted him to sit down at a table, and he said to me: "Let me stand here or I'll tell my dad, and when you come out of the school tomorrow there'll be a guy there with a knife and he'll stab you." I knew his father was an alcoholic and a thug. I told management, but nobody took it seriously. I was so scared that I had to get a friend to pick me up. Honestly, I was pretty relieved when he turned six and went off to school.
Three years ago, I had a two-year-old in my group who was so aggressive, he once kicked me really hard in my stomach. He treated the other kids so badly, even the older ones were afraid of him. He pulled the heads off dolls, threw chairs and would bite people. The other parents complained all the time because their kids would come home with bumps and bruises.
The boy's father even threatened to hit a member of our kitchen staff because I complained so much about his son. Luckily, his mother took him out of the nursery because she was tired of all the constant complaints and meetings about his behaviour.
Parents with Separation Anxiety
It generally takes about two or three weeks for the kids to get used to being away from their parents. I had a mother who stayed for two months in the nursery with her two-year-old. The kids are only here between 8.30AM and 11AM anyway, but she told me that I shouldn't tell her what she could or couldn't do. It was a really unpleasant situation. When one of my colleagues forgot to wash some fruit, the mother came over and reported her. It was just a simple mistake. Letting go was harder for her than for her child. It only ended when the management told her that we were there to look after kids, not parents.
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Four years ago, I was helping out with a different group, and this one kid told another child that his father was a terrorist. I was so shocked. It's amazing what the children bring in with them from home. I wanted to bring it up with the kid's parents, but my colleague convinced me that it wasn't worth it.
At the end of last year, the parents of one child went on holiday. Their son said to another kid: "My parents are on holiday killing other people, they have a bomb with them." He had totally dreamt it up. When the parents came back, I immediately grabbed them and told them what their son had said. The mother said that she had no idea where he'd gotten it from.
Piss, Poo and Vomit
I have to leave the room as soon as a kid throws up, or I'll throw up too. I really can't stomach it. Once, a kid in my group had terrible diarrhoea; he was covered from head to toe in shit. While I took him downstairs to clean it off in the shower, I could feel my stomach turning. Luckily, a colleague arrived and took over from me.
One mother didn't talk to me for three months because I said it was a little too warm outside for her child to wear tights. The kid had been sweating so much. The mum was so angry she told me that I didn't have kids so I knew nothing about raising them, and that I should take care of my own shit first
*Antonia's name has been changed to protect her identity and her job.