Why I Hate Teaching Kindergarten (…and why I love it)
Today my class staged a full-on rebellion. Crayons were thrown; blocks were spilled. “No,” their 20 little minds simultaneously decided, “Now is not classtime.” Trying to round them up was about as successful as herding cats.
The first month is always the hardest, especially with kids who are attending school for the very first time. Not only do they need to learn to understand you, they need to learn what school is and how it works. It can take weeks before the routine begins to sink in and they understand, “Okay, now is the time to sit, now is the time to eat, now is the time to play.” For a good while, you’re just the bad guy who interrupts their never-ending playtime to repeat the same strange sounds over and over again while pointing at pictures. In an ESL school you may look strange, you’ll definitely sound strange, and it’s normal for some kids to be terrified at first. Many kids cry for their parents during the first week of preschool anyway and it’s bound to be worse if their teacher looks and sounds like an alien. The concept of learning (“Oh, I’m supposed to repeat these words, draw these symbols, sing these songs…”) can only begin to be absorbed once the sensory overload subsides.
One of the most frustrating things for me is starting from scratch every single year. You spend 12 months getting these kids to the point where they understand instructions, can express their wants & needs, know the rules, and have a basic foundation of letters, phonics, numbers & vocabulary on which to build. You teach them how to hold their pencils, zip their coats, and make a line; you work on sharing, helping, and apologizing. Then you send them off to their new teacher and have to start back at ABC, 123.
There are times when it feels like all that hard work was for someone else’s benefit—as if their next teacher is getting off easy. But you gotta remind yourself that it’s not about you, it’s about the kids. If you feel you’re passing off a class of students whose skills have greatly improved, who have shown huge progress and learned a great deal, then you should take pride in that. Seeing them learn in leaps and bounds is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job. Getting to know the huge personalities bursting out of little bodies, coaxing out their strengths, bolstering their weaknesses, and admiring their unbridled creativity is what makes it worth the tantrums and tears.
I’m not saying kindergarten teachers have it the hardest. It’s true that the older grade levels have their own challenges: Instead of the alphabet, it’s complex grammar and more abstract vocabulary. Instead of nose-picking and pants-wetting, it’s social drama and raging hormones. Instead of crying for mom and pouting in the corner, it’s testing boundaries and challenging the rules.
If anything, I’m lucky that popping in loudest, most colorful video I have can turn a room full of rampaging toddlers into slack-jawed zombies. With today’s uprising quelled, they morph back into their wide-eyed playful selves—cuddly little balls of raw emotion and unlimited potential—and I know I wouldn’t trade them for the world.