My Day as a Kindergarten Teacher

17 11 2006

Today, I was a Kindergarten teacher. I taught a class of 21 bright kids at Frank Elementary School in Guadalupe, Arizona (near Tempe). I volunteered with a group of individuals from work to partner with the local Junior Achievement office. Junior Achievement strives to teach economics in an age appropriate manner. This was my first time ever presenting anything to a class longer than 1 hour, and as such, my day was filled with many first time experiences. I decided to volunteer for this event because I have always been fond of children. I truly enjoy spending time with children, and trying my best to be a positive influence. I would love it if one day, 15 years from now, one of the children found me and said “I remember the day you came to my kindergarten class. It was fun”.A few days before setting foot on school grounds, I prepared the lesson plans I was given by the event organizers. Basically, I reviewed what I was going to teach, as well as prepare some name tags and certificates of completion. The simple act of filling out each certificate 21 times showed me that there is a lot to teaching that I had never seen in my childhood classrooms. I was in for a new world of experiences.

First thing in the morning, all the volunteers met in the school library for a good homemade breakfast. There were many Spanish dishes, as well as the obligatory bagel and cream cheese. Here, my kindergarten teacher found me, and introduced herself. Mrs. Wait was an older woman, probably old enough to be my mother. In fact, there were many resemblances. Mrs. Wait also mentioned that she would never teach any other level of children, as she enjoys it so much. She told about the kids, and the joys and challenges she faces everyday. I was warned about the few who would disrupt class no matter what. I had no idea what was in store for me that day.

At about 8:55 am, a strange noise sounded on the classroom PAs. That was the tone to go get the kids from the playground. I entered this strange world with curiosity. As we walked out to the playground, I thought about my daughters, and how they would soon be entering this new world of public schools. We made our way to a spot between a tree and a cement bench. There, we were greeted by several rows of children, 2 rows of which would follow us back to the classroom. I made my way to the back of the line, and followed the 2 lines, one boys, and one girls, into the classroom.

Upon entering the classroom, the metal door had magents with each students name on it. I hadn’t noticed earlier, but there were also stickers above and below the bar to open the door that read “In” and “Out”. As each child entered the class, they moved their name from “Out” to “in”. Throughout the day, I also noticed that as kids went to the bathroom, they would move their name from “In” to “Bathroom”.

Once in the class, the teacher gave them a quick assignment. It seemed to be one of those things to prepare the children for the rest of the day, and that playtime is over. After the quick assignment, it was my turn, as this was to be my class for the majority of the day. Mrs. Wait explained to the class that I was the special visitor for the day, and as more of a note to me, informed the class that I was going to tell them about who I am and about my job. I started out OK, telling them my name, and asking them if they had heard of Intel before. I tried to explain in simple terms that Intel makes computer parts. And then, I couldn’t think of anything good to tell them. I knew I was losing the kids fast. Lucky for me, the teacher went into her routine and got the kids announcements going by turning on the closed circuit television. The class missed saying the Pledge of Allegiance. But we caught many announcements, one being that her class was one of the many with perfect attendance for the previous day. I thought that was a sign of a class with good parents who care about their kids’ education. Later that day, I would also find out, that the class had achieved perfect attendance for my visit as well.

So, catching a break, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to get mentally prepared for the teaching that was upcoming. I sort of jumped the gun and was ready to get down to business and read the stories. But, luckily the teacher reminded me that I had prepared table tents for every child in the class. To get off on the right foot, I scrambled up the names so they weren’t in alphabetical order, and announced each child’s name to come up to me to receive their name plate. With each name I read, it was as if each child had won an award because the whole class clapped. Many of the names were hispanic in origin, so I tried my best to pronounce them correctly. It’s especially important for me, a Hispanic role model for these kids, to get at least a little pronunciation correct.

It took a little while, but after I handed out all the names, we regrouped at the carpet, and I read the first story. The kids, it seemed, loved story time. I think they also loved having a new visitor come to class to read the stories to them. As I was sitting down, all the children crowded around me eager to listen to what I had to say. I was flabbergasted. I immediately thought back to my own childhood and tried to remember what it was like in their shoes, excited, eager to learn, and full of kid energy. I didn’t want to let them down. I remembered as a child that the worst part about story time was that I never got to see the pictures when the book was read aloud. I tried my best to show everyone every picture, but alas, a rookie like me couldn’t quite get the job done. When we finished the story, I was impressed with the ease of getting the kids back to their desks so they could complete the accompanying activity to the story I had just read.

The activity was to draw your favorite animal. I saw many drawings that didn’t resemble animals, but being a positive role model, I tried to keep things upbeat. If I was unable to figure out what was drawn, I just asked. They would tell me right away. Kids at this age are completely honest. The kids were done with the activity quicker than I had expected, and as such, I was unprepared for the next step. Trying to not lose the kids focus, I quickly asked the teacher for a little activity to keep them focused while I jogged my memory as to the next lesson’s activities. The quick break involved reciting many things from posters on the walls; sort of reinforcing what was already in their active minds. The last thing they recited was all the numbers from 1 to 100. They would jump after every tenth number, and for each one, they were supposed to raise and lower their hands. After a quick glance at the lesson place, I rejoined the kids while they were on 35 (or there-abouts). Trying to fit in, and show my humorous side, I started doing the hand raising and lowering with them. Then jumped. Then, I started being silly doing different things while still raising and lowering my hands, and then jumping in a funny manner. Good thing they were only 5 and 6 year olds, these antics would not have amused the older kids. Needless to say, I made a few more friends after this as after every jump, I heard more and more laughs.

The next story was much like the first, but when we sat down, the boys wanted to get closer to me, and one sat next to me. I was sitting cross-legged, ready to begin the second story, when I looked down, and his head was on my knee. He was smelling my pants. He looked up at me, and said “You smell good”. I guess this was something you only get in kindergarten. I couldn’t think of anything good to respond with, other than, “Thanks”. Still a little shocked, I read the story, and completed the next activity.

Next, was a short trip to the library. Everyone lined up at the door in their designated positions, and off they went. While entering the library, one boy decided to deviate from the class order and sit go around a bookshelf in order to sit with his peers. I politely reminded him to go with everyone else. He refused. In swept the teacher to give him a private talking to. It was awkward for me because a little later, we would come back with one of those I-not-really-sorry apologies.

After the third story (there were still 2 more to be completed), we went to lunch. I had decided that I would spend lunch with the kids and had prepared a peanut butter sandwich. I did have the option to not spend lunch with the kids, so, I asked the kids.

“Do you want me to go to lunch with you guys?”.

“YEAH!”

And so it was; I brought up the rear and followed the children to the cafeteria/gym. I shoved myself into the small table, moving it backward about 3 feet in the processes, and getting a few laughs for it. I tried to sit where I would be in the middle of the kids; I wanted to just try to observe, and interact as they wanted me to. This is sort of what I do with my own daughter, and it usually works out to some humorous episode. This time, we just talked. There were no life pondering questions. Just “What are you drinking?” (Green Tea). “What did you bring for lunch?” (Peanut Butter and Jelly). It was good to spend time with them. While sitting with the kids at lunch, I met the class grandpa. He came to visit every lunchtime as his granddaughter was in the class.

The eating part of lunch was over all too quickly, as most children were not even half done with their food when the cafeteria monitor came up and said they could go outside. Most were ready to leave, and nicely picked up what they hadn’t finished and made for the exit. I was expected to be done by now as well (I wasn’t), and several children waited for me. I walked out with them to the playground because after lunch was recess. On the way out, I held one girls’ hand. I thought back to my daughters again.

I tried to play a little, but as there were many adults not playing, I didn’t want to confuse the kids. I sat out there and watched in the shade with grandpa. He was there to read a story to the kids, but wasn’t told about my visit. We would leave a little earlier than normal, but stuck around because he liked to be with the kids everyday.

After lunch, I noticed the kids heading back to the same spot from which they had been picked up earlier that same morning. I headed over there to be picked up myself. As I was walking, one of the girls ran up, and grabbed my hand. We walked together, hand-in-hand back to the line. This, too, caught me by surprise, and I tried to keep my composure, as if it happens all the time.

The afternoon went better than the morning as I became more accustomed to the kids, and they to me. I read the remaining stories, and we completed the activities. I did my best to be positive in everything I said and did. I also tried to give everyone the attention they craved. All the kids wanted me to see what they drew, so this was not as easy a task as it sounds. As the day drew to a close, the kids became a little unruly, which I suppose is understandable. Before they left, i told them about the certificates they each received, and handed out some Intel goodies. They were excited to receive an Intel football. I also handed out an Intel mouse pad. I thought it was odd that the web site on the mouse pads was not to the Intel homepage, but to the Intel jobs board. And then, as quickly as the kids entered the room, they lined up, and headed to their pre-arraigned method home (either bus, waiting for pickup or walking home). There were no hugs, or kisses, just a quick wave goodbye. I was there for only one day, after all.

As they left, I headed back to the library, trying to download my day. I returned to find that the rest of the volunteers were as equally overloaded as me. We decompressed as much as possible, headed to the school sign and snapped a group picture. And the day was done.

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3 responses

5 04 2007
Renee

Thanks for sharing your story & your time with those kids! I’m sure they will remember everything you said :o)

7 09 2009
Sophie

I am a university student majoring in early childhood education and was doing some reasearch on google and came across your story. You have got me so excited to begin my career!! Thanks for sharing!!!

4 01 2010
WalLenlaupege

I am frequently searching for brand-new blogposts in the net about this topic. Thx!

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