by Joanna, Kindergarten teacher
I had no idea what I was doing. I had twenty-two children looking at me, and a career TA waiting for my instructions. I was finally “the boss” in my classroom.
I am sure my TA was mentally face-palming.
And that’s how my first day of teaching started. I had completed my internship in a 5th grade classroom, and most of my field experiences had been in upper elementary classrooms. I had been hired to teach Kindergarten. I couldn’t have been more out of place if I had tried. I had taken over a classroom from a teacher who had to leave unexpectedly. Thankfully, it was late March when I took over, so all I really had to do was make sure that everyone made it out alive…including me. Thankfully, we did! The principal asked me to stay, and I continued on for the next two years in a Kindergarten classroom. It got easier as I continued, but it was never a “natural” place for me to teach.
However, I do not find those two years to be wasted years! I couldn’t believe how much I learned! I learned that I hate tying shoes. I learned that I hate recess duty. I learned that I can still sit on the floor – “criss-cross, applesauce, hands in my lap.” I learned how to use the facilities 2x a day. I learned how to eat my lunch on the go. I learned so much! Much of what I learned though had little to do with teaching, and lots to do with me!
The first most important thing I learned was that I could not be a perfectionist. If you are a perfectionist, you have to learn to tone it down. You cannot control every activity and event so that you can pull it off without a hitch, and you end up looking like a rock star. Someone WILL sneeze on their neighbor. Someone WILL throw up. Someone WILL plan a fire drill. Someone WILL forget there is an assembly in the multi-purpose room during your literacy block. In spite of all that, learning WILL take place! Children learn proper manners. Children learn to run in an emergency. Adults learn to be flexible. Adults learn to write visible reminders of important events during the day (arggh!). Did the children get through all the math centers? Did they get to read with the teacher during Daily 5? No, but they learned! And, at the end of the day, you get a big hug from a tiny person who says “This was the best day EVER!” I learned that teaching is about more than just control, and in your students’ eyes, you ARE a rock star.
The next most important thing I learned was that I will never live up to the teaching standards the world has placed on me. And, I have to be OK with that. You cannot control what time my students go to bed or get up. You cannot control if they ate breakfast. You cannot control if they took a bath or put on clean clothes. You cannot control if they did their homework. You cannot control where they live or with whom they live. You can only control you. You can control your actions. You can control how you treat students. You can control your learning. You can control your professional development. You can control these things!
Finally, a most important thing I learned was that I have to laugh. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you might want to start cultivating one. The anecdotes I could share would keep you in stitches for a month! In order to create your “classroom family,” you need humor! One of my favorite ways to start a social media post is to say “Today in Kindergarten, we learned…” My friends tell me they always know it’s going to be good when they read that! It is those moments when a student calls you “Grandma” (I still haven’t healed!), or a student tells the class about their dad shooting their turkey for thanksgiving (raising a class of vegetarians now), or one of your “missing” students hollers from under your desk that he’s “sewing a princess” (lacing card) – you can’t help but laugh! It’s those moments of shared humor that bind your classroom family together. It’s what causes them to cheer when a classmate finally recognizes all their letters or counts to 100 for the first time (YES! my students cheered of their own accord!). Laughter in the classroom is very necessary part of teaching!
Will I ever be a fabulous Kindergarten teacher? I suspect not, and that’s OK. I am, however, a fabulous teacher because I learned I am not perfect, I am not in control, and I have to laugh. This is what I learned “Today in Kindergarten.”