Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten Linky Party

Yesterday I read The Kindergarten Connection's post "The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten" and I loved it.  Every word she wrote was right on and it got me thinking about the things I have heard over the years.  I have been teaching for awhile so I have heard many comments.  Some of these have come from friends, former student's parents, administrators, and other teachers.  I don't think anyone meant any harm in saying these comments.  These all came from a place of love and/or simple curiosity.

"All you do is cut and color."
"You teach Kindergarten?  That must be so fun!"
"Awwwww.  They are so cute at that age."
"What are you still doing here?  (Looking at the clock) The kids are gone."
"I could never teach kindergarten."
"I remember taking naps and eating graham crackers."

Kindergarten is a special grade and I am happy to be a part of it.  I am currently in my 18th year of teaching.  16 of these have been in wonderful kindergarten.  This grade truly has my heart!  I also taught one year in first grade (which I loved) and one year in a 3rd/4th combo (I'm glad I tried it, but was happy to go back to kindergarten.  I realized I liked teaching children how to read, rather than teaching children who were already reading).

Here is the TRUTH about teaching kindergarten:

All you do is cut and color.
Ohhhhhh.........if only it were this simple!  Yes.  We do cut and color.  I try to incorporate these skills into our different learning activities because they love it so much, and, they are 5 and 6.  But, that is not all we do.  Kindergarten students have so many academic standards they are required to learn - knowing all of their letter sounds and being able to apply those sounds to blending sounds into words, accurately reading grade level text, write sentences, and understand concepts of print.  They also have to identify the numbers to 20 (writing them, naming them, and understanding what each number represents), decompose numbers to 20 using base ten blocks, solve word problems, and solve addition and subtraction problems in multiple ways.  These skills are not easy for 5 year olds.  This is hard when children come in with very little background knowledge.

We also have to teach them to hold a pencil, write their name correctly (with a capital letter and the rest lowercase), and yes, we also have to teach them how to hold scissors properly and cut carefully.  This doesn't include all of the social skills we are teaching - things like being able to take turns, line up, sit and listen to a story, how to play nicely with others.

I currently teach in a half day kindergarten so all of this (and much more) must be taught in 2 hours and 45 minutes - not including specials (PE, Music, Counseling, Library) and recess.  Phew!

You teach Kindergarten?  That must be so fun!
It's true!  Kindergarten is fun!  I am thrilled that I get to work in a job that I find fun, rewarding, and new, each and everyday.  But, it is not all about "fun".  I wish it were so!  Kindergarten is busy.  I am constantly walking around the room and being called "teacher" by 5 different children at the same time.  They have a hard time waiting their turn and when they want help, they want it right then (never mind that they see me working with their friend directly across the table from them).  They have a hard time being independent.  You have to be well-planned in order to keep the students engaged and on task.  Activities must be changed often (in one lesson) and we have to take "Brain Breaks" to keep them focused.  They are 5 and so they need to move and talk or else they will burst :)  Kindergarten is fun, but it is also tiring, and demanding (see educational standards above).  It is fun, but it is so much more!

Though my students think school is fun (yeah!) they also think it could be more fun.  I had a student ask my student teacher, earlier this school year "Why does she have all these toys in here if we can't play with them?"  Awwww.  It is just so tempting to see those!  My AM kiddos get to play - once every 2 weeks.  We alternate library/activity time every Friday.  My extended day kiddos get to play in the room 3x's each week.  They so look forward to that time - and so do I.  They are having fun, but they are also learning to get along, share, construct, use their imagination, and just enjoy some choice time.

Awwwww.  They are so cute at that age.
They are so cute at this age!  It is true.  But, cute doesn't get you an "M" for Meets Grade Level Expectations on the report card.  I do love looking out at their sweet smiling faces everyday.  I LOVE that they love coming to school and that they want to learn.  That is my main goal as a teacher.  I want the students to WANT to come to school.  If they do, everything else will fall into place.

We have to plow through loads of academic content (see above) and so I can't adore them all day.  We have work to do, and math to learn, and books to read, and songs to sing, and friends to make, and schedules to keep, etc.

What are you still doing here?  (Looking at the clock) The kids are gone.
Ha!  I think all teachers know how to respond to this comment.  If only it were this simple.  I can't do the job I want to do in my actual work hours.  I wish I could, but I can't.  I work after my contracted hours ALL. THE. TIME.  I am not necessarily happy about that because sometimes I just want to relax and do other fun things.  And, sometimes I just say no.

But, for me, teaching is enjoyable.  I like planning and creating things for my little kiddos.  I want to make sure their art work is hung up, and our room is tidy, and that I am ready to go for the next day.  I need to have activities ready for parent helpers and IA support.  And, I am also uber organized - that takes time.  But, if things are in their place, then I know where to find them.  While I work outside of my contracted work hours often, I make the choice to do this, because that is who I am.

I could never teach kindergarten.
I agree.  Kindergarten is not for everybody.  They are young and need a lot of nurturing.  They need the right combination of love and structure and firmness.  They need reminders to cover their mouth with their arm when they cough, they need help tying shoes, they need reminders to look in their backpack for homework folders, they need help getting into lines, and so much more.  They need a lot of academic support and kindergarten teachers help rear their love of learning.  We teach them beginning reading, writing and math skills and try to give them the best foundation possible, all while making school an enjoyable, loving and safe place to be.

Kindergarten has my heart.  It might be fun to try first grade again (way, way down the road).  But, like the comment above, I sort of feel the same way about any grade above first grade.  As teachers, we find the right fit for our personalities and we know our strengths.  I couldn't imagine being in a different grade level at this point, and don't foresee changing grade levels anytime too soon (at least I hope I don't).  I'm not done with kindergarten.

I remember taking naps and eating graham crackers.
Those sound like the days!  We don't take naps in kindergarten anymore (actually never have in my 18 years of teaching).  With a half day, we don't have time.  We also don't have time for snack.  The students eat breakfast, have a whirlwind of learning activities, and then it is time to go home and eat lunch.  Oregon is going full day next year!  Woohoo!!!!!  While we still won't have naps, it will be nice to slow down a bit and be able to spend more time in literacy and math.  It will also be nice to be able to talk about holidays and social studies and science without sacrificing literacy or math.  And, it will also be nice to add in a regular activity time/play schedule.  As far as snack goes?  Maybe.  We will see how things go next year with full day.

This has been a fun linky party.  It was nice to think back and put my thoughts down.  I think all teachers have heard comments about the many different things we do, grade levels we teach, time we have off from work, etc.  Again, I think these comments are meant in a loving, curious, and kind way.  I don't think people realize what they say or how they say it can be taken the wrong way.

Kindergarten is a special grade level and I don't want to teach anywhere else at the moment.  I am happy with my little kiddos and truly love teaching all of the skills mentioned in this blog post.  I do hope this reads as a loving tribute to my grade level of choice and to the people who made the comments.  I am writing this in a good place, but sometimes it is hard to convey meaning in writing without hearing the tone.

I do believe these are my TRUTHS.  What are yours?  Join in this linky party to share your thoughts!


  1. Thanks so much for linking up Suzanne! I love reading your truths and I also love the reminders that we do all find our grade level of choice. Each grade is special and comes with its own challenges. For us right now that grade is kindergarten! I love kindergarten too and don't wish to switch back to older grades anytime soon! I loved your reflections and your wording - it really gives all teachers something to think about!

  2. Hi! I'm following all the Vegas bound bloggers on the forum thread. I'd love to have you follow me back @ Super excited for Vegas!