Oh, the internet. It never ceases to amaze me (I hope I don’t sound like an old fuddy duddy here…) how people are brought together through the web. I receive emails from folks all over the world with comments, questions, and ideas.
Recently, Philip, a reader from Australia (a place I’ve always wanted to visit), sent me an email. He’s been thinking of changing careers and becoming a kindergarten teacher. Philip has been getting a lot of flack from his friends and family about this decision. He had a few very specific concerns that were brought to his attention by those around him. Here they are and my reply.
Teaching kindergarten has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my LIFE. I mean that too. Each day presents challenges, but an equal number of rewards. Let me reply to each of your concerns one at a time.
Ok, here goes.
1. But you’re male (people will think you are weird)
People think I’m weird anyway. I smile all the time. I sing and dance in the teacher’s room with veteran teachers. I wear green sneakers (really, they are green!). I teach my class the robot and other awful dance moves from my youth. There’s nothing wrong with being DIFFERENT. If being ‘weird’ means being different, sign me up. Who wants to be plain, boring, or ordinary? If loving the work you do – teaching children to observe and notice the world around them in unique and creative ways makes you weird, then be weird. If knowing you are making an impact on a child’s life, even just for a short time makes you weird, then be weird. If wanting to share a little bit of the joy you have for life and learning with sprouts just beginning their own journeys in education makes you weird, then embrace being weird!
2. People will think you are a molester (you cannot touch or be touched by the kids)
If people think I (or any other man who works in my school or with young kids) only works with children to ‘molest’ or ‘touch’ them, they are idiots. I hate to be crass, but that’s how I feel. I’m offended by anyone who thinks that about me… spend an hour in my classroom and then decide how I feel about my students. Oh and by the way, I’m affectionate with my students all the time… it’s ok to rest a hand on a shoulder in support… sad or tired kids lean on me on the carpet all the time… it’s fine to offer a hug or receive one if the giver asks first. I do show my sprouts how to hug me properly (hands above my waist please), but there are tons, I mean TONS of hugs in my classroom. Heck, even the parents have been known to offer me a hug. A hug is a smile with your arms – who wouldn’t want that?
3. It won’t be as mentally stimulating
Um, that’s ridiculous. I am challenged, both academically and socially daily by my students. When you have a room of twenty plus kids, all with different backgrounds and abilities and you have to teach them all – that’s not just mentally stimulating, it’s downright overwhelming at times… trust me.
4. You’re wasting your potential
Again, ridiculous. What’s your potential? How many of your friends who work in the business world change lives? That’s all I have to say about that.
5. You’ve never been into handicrafts
Here’s a secret nobody wants you to know. You do not have to be crafty to teach kindergarten. Trust me. I’m just about the most uncrafty person I know. Kindergarten is NOT, I repeat, not all about crafts. We do some basic stuff (paper bags, cotton balls – real basic) and my class has a ball. You’d also be surprised what you can find online… I’ve made some quite dandy stuff based on others’ lesson plans and ideas. Most sites even offer pictures with steps for the craft-challenged.
6. Screaming kids are really hard work
If you do your job, they won’t be screaming. Crying? Maybe the first few weeks, but that ends quickly. We’re having too much fun dancing, singing, learning, and playing to be screaming.
7. The mothers are the big problem
I have to say, when I started teaching kindergarten, the parents were a big fear of mine. Here’s another secret, if their child loves school and loves you, the parents are going to be very, VERY happy. Keep the lines of communication open (I send a daily email with what we’ve done in class) and invite parents in to observe or volunteer. I do think the first time many of my students’ parents meet me they are a little surprised to see a man teaching kindergarten. This dissipates very quickly. After a few years, you’ll get a reputation in the community as a fantastic teacher and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Mothers want their kids to be happy and successful. I can’t say I blame them.
So there you have. Go out and buy yourself a pair of green sneakers (or whatever your favorite color is) and find the joy in teaching.