Made it through the first month of Kindergarten, which I have never taught before this year! Exactly a year ago, I got transferred to a new school and started teaching Kindergarten for the first time. This past month has given me a fuller picture of what teaching Kindergarten is like, starting from Day 1, and it is exhausting!! Here are some of my observations from the first month:
* These kids come in as BABIES! Most are 5 years old, but given the demographics of my school, I do not expect that students come in with prior school experience. Many didn’t attend preschool last year. I had 3 crying students that took about 2 weeks to transition to school. Every morning, they would wail loudly when their parents dropped them off, so it was so hard to get through the morning routines of the Pledge of Allegiance, calendar, and etc. One child was already absent for 2 days in the first week because he kept pulling off all his clothes after his mom tried to dress him for school. Another child threw up twice in my classroom. You would think after an hour or so, they would get tired of crying, but they didn’t! It went on all day, no matter what toys, blocks, and stuffed animals I used to try to distract them. I got so tired of hearing, “I want my mommy!”
* One child came in without knowing how to talk. All he made were inaudible noises that sounded like baby talk. It was so difficult to manage my other 20 students while trying to pat his shoulder or get right in front of his face every time I needed his attention, and I had to use hand motions along with everything I asked him to do, but he still didn’t understand or follow the directions anyway. He hid under tables or appeared to sleep on the ground when he didn’t want to do what I asked, and his body went limp. Since I couldn’t lay my hands on him, I let him be. After 2.5 weeks, he got moved down to the Transitional Kinder (TK) class, but I still have a full class of 20 students!
* All my kids knew how to recognize their names from the start, but most didn’t know how to write their names or how to properly hold a pencil or a pair of scissors. It is amazing to see how much nicer they write their names a month later. Below is the difference between my most advanced student and my lowest student on their first day! The child on the left can already recognize all the uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet, count to 100, recognize numbers 1-30, and read all 50 Kinder high frequency words, which is what the rest of my class will learn this year. He’s ready to be challenged to read 1st grade words and read and write sentences on his own. The child on the right still cannot write his name to this day or sit down for long to finish any task before wandering to look out the window.
* I got a sore throat after the first 3 days because I forgot how tiring it is on my voice to teach Kindergarten. Everything needs to be thoroughly explained again and again for the kids to get it and remember it! For something as simple as sitting on the rainbow carpet, I have to teach them to have their eyes on the speaker, their ears listening, their lips closed, their hands in their laps, and their legs criss-cross applesauce. Then there are directions for every other classroom routine like walking in a line, going to the bathroom, using the water fountain, and so on.
* Kids really can’t hold in their pee when they say they have to go. Once, two students asked me to go the bathroom at the same time, so I asked if one of them could wait while the other student who seemed more urgent went to the bathroom first. Later, I found this child crying because he had an accident in his pants, and I felt bad for believing him when he said he could wait.
* Being with this class from Day 1 allows me to build stronger relationships with the families and set my expectations for the students and parents from the start. The first day was only a 1-hour orientation in my classroom. It was overwhelming and intimidating to have nearly 60 people, all 20 students and their 2 parents, staring at me talking at them for an hour about what Kindergarten will look like. I enjoyed spending an extra 30 minutes after the orientation to meet the new batch of kids and their parents before they officially started school the next day. I also had my first Back-to-School Night experience for Kindergarten, and I felt pressure to make sure I covered everything about Kindergarten to these parents who might be sending their kids to school for the first time. I already have 10 parents who are interested in volunteering in my classroom, which means I can schedule them so that I can always have one parent helping out in the classroom at any time on any given day. So thankful that the parent support is much better this year!
Time to end this overly long post with an inspirational video to teachers and students!
Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students
“You’re here. You take up space. You MATTER.” –Kid President