A man starts a new job as Kindergarten teacher - #1

[MenTeach Note: We've asked a man who just finished his teaching program to write about his teaching job. We'll post each of his journal entries during the year. Post your comments here for him to read - and of course, wish him luck!]

Friday, August 11, 2006

This is the beginning of a journal chronicling the first year of a rookie kindergarten teacher. Before I go any further, let me set the stage a little: I'm a 22 year old male, fresh out of college, teaching kindergarten at a charter school in the metro Detroit area. I am writing this journal as a means of personal reflection and as a way to share with others what it is like being a young male teaching at the historically female domainated lower elementary level, along with showing others what it is like to be a ‘rookie' teacher.

Going into this year, I have heard so many things about what your first year of teaching is supposed to be like. For the most part, I've heard that it is a very challenging, very taxing year. One person described it to me as being ‘pure hell'. While I don't anticipate it being ‘pure hell', I am cognizant of the fact that I will probably struggle more than I have ever struggled up until this point in my life. I realize that I am not going to know everything, nor am I going to do everything right (I'll be happy if I just do something right!).

Just like during student teaching, I'm sure that I am going to hit low points where I will seriously doubt my abilities and/or my desire to teach. With all that being said, I am looking forward to my first year as a teacher. I have been studying and working towards this for the past five years. This is what I want out of life and nothing is going to stop me.

I can't wait to meet my students, their parents, and the other teachers on staff. I have many great ideas that I'm looking forward to testing ‘in the real world' (many of which you will probably read about, if you continue to read my journals). I'm excited, but I'm also kind of scared. I know that I just completed a rigorous program of study at the best teacher prep school in the country, Eastern Michigan University.

I've subbed, I've worked as a teacher's assistant, I've tutored, I've umpired t-ball, I've taught tennis lessons, I've worked in every capacity related to children other than in the capacity of classroom teacher.

I'm still scared though.

I'm especially anxious to see how the other teachers and how the parents react to me. I was reading somewhere the other day that only 2 percent of all kindergarten teachers are men. I absolutely love telling others that I'm a kindergarten teacher (if anything, I say it too much!). I am proud to say that I am one of them, but I also realize that, like it or not, that I'll probably be looked at a little differently than the female teachers.

Our society ‘Men aren't supposed to teach young children.' Men aren't supposed to be nurturing. I say that's a load of hogwash. I realize though that I will probably have to work a little bit harder than my female counterparts to prove that I, too am capable of being a great teacher, regardless of gender. I'm also anxious about seeing how others react to how young I look.

When I subbed, as I called the class to order, the middle school kids often thought that I was a new kid trying to be funny. Most people say that I look anywhere between 16 and 18 years old, when in fact I am 22, going on 23 years old. As with my gender and my lack of formal teaching experience, I will just have to work extra hard to prove that I am capable of being a great teacher!

The Job Offer
Alright, now that the stage is set, I'll talk about what's happened over the past couple of months. I was offered the job somewhere around the end of June. The day after I was offered the job, the muffler on my car broke.

Talk about a sign....

As soon as I accepted the job, I went about finding a new car and symbolically starting a new chapter in my life. Within a week of getting the job, I found a new car....Offer letters are a great thing, let me tell ya!

I spent the next couple of weeks resting and relaxing. After two semesters of student teaching and five years of taking classes year ‘round, I needed a little break. During this time, my mind couldn't get too far from the classroom. After a couple of weeks of doing very little, I realized that I needed to make some quick cash, since that first teacher paycheck wasn't going to come until early September, so I went back to my old job on campus, working 30-40 hours a week.

Around middle of July, I decided to look for a new place to live... again, offer letters are a wonderful thing! I was able to find a nice apartment in a nice area near a golf course. Between working 30-40 hours a week, looking for a new apartment, and packing, I couldn't believe how busy I was. I had to keep reminding myself that it was only July and that it's okay to not be doing teacher stuff. The other kindergarten teacher called me a few times, encouraging me to come in to the school to work on my classroom, however I typically worked during the hours when the school was open.

The teachers at my school seem very nice and welcoming to new folks such as myself. So, the beginning of August is here and I'm still slacking when it comes to teacher stuff. There's so much to do! Packing and moving is a lot bigger job than I remember it was, when I moved into my old apartment. My boss only added to my workload by giving me 40 hours a week, which was nice because I really needed the money, however starting work at 5:15 am just sucks all of the energy out of you and makes the day a lot shorter. In my little bit of spare time, I decided to start reading a few books about being a rookie teacher and teaching kindergarten.

I learned a lot... I'll be sure to share tidbits of info as the year rolls on. I felt good because I was actually doing something school related, instead of spending all of my time packing and cleaning and at work. After moving into my new apartment on Saturday, after working 19 hours on Monday and Tuesday combined, I finally had the opportunity to go check out my classroom for the first time....

A New School, A New Job
Boy was I nervous. Part of me was kinda scared, since I heard that all of the other teachers had been in there quite a bit. It took me about 10 minutes to figure out what to wear. Typically, I'm the guy who grabs shorts and a t-shirt and I'm good to go, so this was odd....

When I walked into my classroom, I couldn't help but smile as I looked around. Is it odd that I had a tear in my eye, as I thought ‘this is MY classroom'. Being the big dork that I am, I immediately called my best friend and my grandparents to tell them that I was in my classroom (primarily so that I could hear myself saying ‘I'm in my classroom!').

It took me about 5-10 minutes to get my bearings about me. Finally, I started to picture what I wanted to do with the room. It was a lot smaller than I had hoped. There were quite a few storage shelves, but not much on them....I saw a portfolio of a child who was in the classroom last year and saw a spelling test...I almost puked (seriously). I hope that there was a first grade class in here last year because I don't think that giving a spelling test to a kindergartener is developmentally appropriate.

It was odd being in there without a cooperating teacher or supervising teacher hovering over me, yet it was surprisingly refreshing. I started to wonder about what I'd have to buy and what the school would provide. I peeked into a few of the other classrooms and they were all ready for the first day of school (mind you, the first day of school isn't until the Wednesday after Labor Day). Of course, this didn't intimidate me in the least bit (I hope that you sense the sarcasm there!)....

I'll be ready though.... I can't wait! I stayed for about an hour, then went about with the rest of my day. I wish that I wasn't working 40 hours next week. I'd like to spend the time in my classroom, working on things, however rent needs to be paid, car payments need to be made, and cool stuff needs to be bought for my classroom.

So, this ends my first journal entry of the year. I am going to try to write one journal entry a week. They will not be two pages long, like this one was. I was laying around the apartment before bed and just started typing. I can't believe that I wrote this much. If you're still reading at this point, I commend you!

I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences as a male, rookie kindergarten teacher with the world.

The Kid Teacher