Kelsey Kufner co-teaches a Toddler class of 14 children, all 2 years old, at Primrose School of Nashville Midtown. Kelsey is a Wisconsin native who moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2015; before joining a Primrose school team in 2019, she studied songwriting, worked as a music journalist and coordinated VIP guests for a Nashville hotel.
Then, “I decided I wanted to try something different, and I thought, what do I really love?” Kelsey says. “Kids was the answer.”
Kelsey has a 10-month-old son, Isaiah, who attends Primrose. Kelsey takes us through her day, below.
7:20 a.m.: When I arrive at school, my first role is parent. I take Isaiah to the infant room with a day’s worth of bottles and his favorite toy, a blue blankie that he likes to chew. It’s so comforting to know that he’s just down the hall, and everyone here loves him. He’s like our little mascot.
7:30 a.m.: I walk into my classroom and turn on the lights. I take chairs down from the tabletops, where we stored them to clean the floor last night. Within a few minutes, the first little ones are dropped off by their parents. They are so happy to see me, and I get a lot of hugs.
Even if you're tired or had a rough morning, it's impossible to be in a bad mood around these sweet children.
9 a.m.: By now, my co-teacher, Miss Avery, is here and it’s time to serve breakfast: chicken and biscuits with applesauce. The cooks here are awesome — and thankfully it’s not me who has to cook!
9:20 a.m.: It’s time for Harmony & Heart®, our music time. I call the children to our regular meeting spot — a half-circle rug near the wall — and reach into a bin of puppets at my feet. These are the Primrose Friends, puppets that help us teach the children important values such as responsibility and caring. They are an important part of the Primrose Balanced Learning® curriculum, which is both academic and social-emotional.
I put Molly the cow on my hand, and we start singing “Old MacDonald.” I move Molly’s mouth to the words, and the children hold hands in an impromptu toddler square dance. They shout, “E-I-E-I-OOOOOOO!”
9:45 a.m.: Ally the bunny helps me review the classroom rules, known as “Rules of the Roost.”
“What kind of ears do we use in school, friends?” I ask, as Ally.
“Listening ears!” the children respond.
“If someone says they don’t like something, what do we do?”
This is my favorite part of the job. I get to teach them how to be good humans, and how to be nice to themselves and nice to each other.
10:30 a.m.: We go outside to play. One of my students asks me to race her to the fence. It’s nonstop movement with 2-year-olds; thankfully, I’ve always been an energetic person and it is so much fun — like cardio without going to the gym.
11 a.m.: Back in the classroom, we’re using paint and stamps to make textured images, and practicing vocabulary like “bumpy” and “smooth.” The children take turns with the stamps, but one little girl doesn’t want to be done. I say, “That is beautiful! We’re all done now,” three times before I convince her to move on. I have learned how to redirect them in a loving way when needed.
They are toddlers, so they are going to have moments and moods and meltdowns — that’s developmentally appropriate and OK! — but they are so good and loving, and they really want to do the right thing.
11:45 a.m.: It’s time for the children to eat lunch. Today, we’re serving barbecued pulled pork, baked beans and orange slices. Serving lunch to 14 toddlers is a bit like a game of whack-a-mole. Within 10 minutes, one child has spilled her milk, one child is trying to eat off another plate and another child needs to go potty.
But even so, I love lunchtime because I get to eavesdrop on their conversations. Today, they’re talking about their parents: “I have a mommy.” “I have a mommy, too!”
After lunch, Avery and I take each child to the potty. I find potty-training really rewarding because the children feel so accomplished when they make progress. Their little faces light up with pride.
12:30 p.m.: The children lie down on their cots for rest time — most of them nap — and while Avery watches them, I take my hour lunch break.
First, I pump breast milk for Isaiah, then I run out for a burger and a milkshake. I eat in my car, listening to the local hip-hop station and enjoying the solitude.
Sometimes I take Isaiah to the lobby to play; I don’t go into his classroom because of COVID-19 protocols. But today he is sleeping, so I just gaze at his sweet face through the window.
1:30 p.m.: I’m back in the classroom, and most of the children are still napping. Two of them are looking at books quietly on their cots — all in all, a successful rest time. Every 15 minutes, I check on each one of them to make sure they’re safe and comfortable. It’s part of my training at Primrose, but honestly, I would do it anyway. It’s just an instinct as a mom when your babies are sleeping.
2:30 p.m.: Avery is back from her break, and together we wake up the children. It’s time for a snack: bananas spread with sunflower butter.
3:10 p.m.: We all head outside again. “Chase me, Ms. Kelsey!” a little boy calls. I comply, and he giggles hysterically.
3:30 p.m.: Back in the classroom, I teach a lesson about community helpers, such as firefighters, nurses and mail carriers.
[emphasis] I look at the clock and can’t believe it’s after 3:30 already. As busy as I am, the day goes really fast. Soon, the parents will start to arrive for pickup.
4 p.m.: The children enjoy more free time to play. One little girl sticks a doll under her shirt and tells me, “I have a baby in my belly, just like my mommy!” How sweet is that?
4:15 p.m.: While some of the children are leaving, I start to do end-of-day chores, like sweeping food from under the tables. Avery closes the classroom each day, but I help her before I go.
4:30 p.m.: I say goodbye to Avery and the remaining children and go to pick up Isaiah. On the ride home, he sleeps, and I start to feel a bit tired now that I’m finally sitting down.
Fortunately, Isaiah is a good sleeper, and once he’s asleep around 7:30 p.m., I can relax with my partner until I go to bed at 9.
I need a lot of sleep to keep up with these children, but it’s all worth it. I love being able to help raise little humans and form the next generation. Who knows what these people will turn out to be? It’s exciting — and adorable.