Confessions of a Substitute Teacher

Rows of desks.  Colorful supplies.  White dry erase board covering the walls.  I love the classroom.  But I'm not quite ready to go back full time.  So... I signed up to be a sub.  Once a week, my cell phone wakes me up at 5:30am where an automated voice offers me a job.  I usually accept the first job I am offered.  I view subbing as an adventure to experience new schools and grade levels.   Anything goes.

But, when the call came for Kindergarten, I hesitated.  For years, I've been telling every Kindergarten teacher I see (including my daughter's) what a saint they are.  Why?  Because I am terrified of their job!  20-some five-year-olds in one classroom that you need to teach how to read, do math and introduce them to this whole new set of rules and expectations called school?  I take that back.  Terrified doesn't even begin to describe this.  So, I hesitated.  And then I pushed accept.

 My first experience was pretty awful.  Kindergarteners do not respond to the same set of social cues that fifth graders do.  Namely because Kindergarteners haven't learned them yet. For example, I abruptly stop speaking in the middle of a word when I hear a student talking over me.  This abrupt pause makes most people stop and think, "That person stopped talking and is now looking straight at me.  Maybe, I should stop talking, too."  But not Kindergarteners.  They just continue with their conversation. 

Or when giving directions (really short directions, too), I expect students to stay in their seat for that 30 seconds.  But Kindergarteners are so much smaller that they slip in right under your line of vision.  Thus, while explaining how to fold a piece of paper into hamburger style, I suddenly felt a light tapping on my leg.  "Excuse me, Excuse me, Excuse me," the little one pleas.  Whoa, I think to myself, how did you get there?  What I say: "Please sit down... NOW."

At the end of day, I danced a little jig in celebration of surviving my first encounter with Kindergarten.  The second time I subbed Kindergarten, I was a little more prepared and I figured out a few things that are amazing about teaching these little five-year-olds:

They are boisterously joyous about learning.
Today, the class I was subbing for was learning about -ing words in Phonics.  Words like wing, sing, etc.  A girl came to me during writing and asked how to spell "going."  I spelled it for her and she immediately realized it was an "ing" word.  She went back to her desk singing "I'm writing an "ing" word!  I'm writing an "ing" word!"  She was so proud of her new knowlwdge.

They tell on everything... which is quite humorous sometimes.
Kinders don't know how to navigate social situations.  This means that whenever something happens to them their first inclination is not to talk to the person or tell the person their feelings or even to consider how the action impacted him or her.  The first thing they do is tell the teacher.  My favorite from the day:
Kinder:  Teacher, he said I got a hair cut!
Me:  Is a hair cut bad?
Kinder: No.
Me:  Did you get a hair cut?
Kinder: Ya.
Me:  Ok, then.

The "Yes!" starts in Kindergarten
In my fifth grade class, we would often do math fact practice where students would have 3 minutes to complete as many multiplication problems as they could.  At the end of the three minutes, we would check our answers as a class.  Many times, after an answer was given, I could hear an audible, "Yes" by every student who got it right in the class.  Usually, I asked the students to stop because fifth graders can complete a lot of multiplication problems in 3 minutes and I wasn't up to hearing "Yes!" 60 times.  Today, the Kinders practiced addition math facts and I heard that "Yes!" after we checked each problem.  With them, it wasn't a competition about who can get more right (like it often is among fifth graders) but rather a celebration of what they knew (and there was only 15 problems).
 

Although, I love teaching fifth graders, I now have an understanding of how Kindergarten teachers can love their job.  However, I still fully believe that all Kinder teachers are saints.

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