“Hi. My name is David and I came out of my mommy’s tummy,” a new child gets dropped off at the door by his slightly embarrassed parents.
“Missus Marrry Jooo, She hit me,” yells a little girl on the other side of the classroom.
Another child drops the familiar dreaded “Uh-Oh,” followed by another child screaming “TEACHER” at the top of their lungs.
Mary Joanna Brixey, or as the kids affectionately call her Miss Mary Jo, is an Arkansas Tech nursing student who works as a preschool ministry assistant at First Baptist Church in Russellville. After six years of being a childcare worker, two summer internships and five months as an assistant, the London native has gained many real life experiences she hopes will help her with her future career goal of becoming a pediatric nurse.
Although she spends much of her time working as an office assistant, taking phone calls and organizing paperwork, she looks forward to the time she gets to spend interacting with the preschoolers.
“I decided to take this job because I love working with kids. Being able to experience it and see how fun it is motivates me. Being with children all the time has helped me to learn how to communicate with them and their parents, which will also be helpful in the work force,” Brixey said.
The job of a caregiver is so much more than just babysitting them until their parents return. The job includes some basic teaching skills as well as you take the students through a structured schedule of playtime, learning time, Bible story time, and activities.
Brixey is one of the many ATU students who has learned firsthand that while the balance between being a full time nursing student, a job and a social life is sometimes difficult, it’s completely possible.
“I have learned that life is hard, and sometimes you don’t have time for everything you want to do, so you have to pick out the important stuff and do that,” Brixey said. “You won’t always have time to hang out and be with friends, because of more important stuff that pertains to your future such as your job, or school. I’ve had to learn to grow up a little bit.”
Despite getting peed on and bitten, she insists that this is the best job she’s ever had and that she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“Some days are much harder than others, I’ve learned that I don’t have as much patience as I thought,” she said. “Kids don’t know if you’re having a good or bad day so
you have to put on a smile and love them no matter what you might be going through or feeling in the moment. It makes me put others, on a daily basis, before myself.”
Brixey lets her faith influence her life.
“My favorite verse is ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,’ Phillippians 4:13. It gets me through the really rough days.”
Brixey recalled one day while teaching the story of Moses parting the Red Sea, one child pointed to the water in the picture that when along with the Bible story, yelling “but it’s blue” until the whole three-year-old class was in an uproar.
“Kids say the funniest things. Every day is different; they remind me daily how to be a kid.”
Despite the perks of the job, there are some downfalls.
Brixey said, “I once had a little boy tell me he needed to potty but couldn’t get his pants down so he came running to me to unbutton them. Right after I unbuttoned them he whipped out his peepee and peed all over me and the bookshelf behind me.”
Fortunately, the good experiences far outnumber the bad ones. Brixey reflected that the job has only made her more sure that she wants to have kids of her own; someday, although not anytime soon.
“The boo boos and potty training accidents happen all the time. You have to learn not to let them discouraging you from your job,” Brixey said. “When you work with the same kids every week you learn to enjoy the little victories like watching them share or watching them learn something new. Earning the love and respect of a little child is so special.”
She focuses on building a relationship with every child she has in class.
“The kids have taught me to love, even when I might not feel like it. They remind me to believe with an unblemished trust, despite what the world might say.”
In her few years working as a chidcare giver she has been able to take part in the lives of over a hundred small children.