Kid Teacher works on his classroom - #3

[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!]

Read Post #1 #2

This has been an exciting week to say the least. On Tuesday, I had new teacher orientation. This two hour long meeting basically covered our insurance benefits, 401K and a TON of paperwork. I had no clue what a 401K was until Tuesday. I've heard the term used here and there, but I didn't know what it meant. At the orientation meeting, I met most of the other new teachers from my school. I was the only guy at the table. As we were sitting around, waiting for the meeting to start, someone asked what everyone was teaching. When I proudly announced to the group that I'm teaching Kindergarten, all I could hear was ‘Awwwwwwww.....' from my fellow co-workers. I could hear a couple of them mutter ‘whoa' to themselves. I'm not going to lie, anytime I get a response like that from a group of women, whether they're co-workers or random women, I really enjoy it. (The awwww... factor is defiantly one of the hidden perks about being a male kindergarten teacher!) I just smiled and said that I'm looking forward to having a lot of fun teaching Kindergarten. I was kind of surprised to hear that there was only one other teacher at the table of whom this is going to be their first year teaching. The other teachers seemed rather surprised that I found a job right out of college. While I do have a lot of great things on my resume, I do think that my gender gave me a big advantage when I was looking for a job. At the very least a few schools brought me in out of curiosity, because as you could imagine, myself being a male certified in early childhood is about as rare as a lake in the desert. Most of the other teachers at the table previously taught at a private school. I'm quickly realizing that there is a hierarchy when it comes to schools. Private schools are typically on the bottom, charter schools are in the middle, and public schools are on top. I think this is in part related to salary as well. Most private schools in Michigan pay somewhere in the middle $20k range. Charter schools start out in the low $30K range, while public schools start out around $38-$40k a year for a new teacher with their bachelors' degree. I'm just happy to have a classroom, regardless of how much I'm making.

Speaking of my classroom
I spent 3 mornings working in my classrroom this week. In fact, I quit my food service job a few days early so that I could spend the time in my classroom. I was joking with a friend of mine that I officially became a teacher when I spent $100 on supplies the other day at Office Depot. My classroom is quite bare. My principal told me that the teacher who previously had the room took lots of school bought items that she shouldn't have. I do not have a desk, and I have 14 shelving units with very little on them. My principal assured me that she's ordered a desk and various items for my classroom. She's really nice. I feel like I've asked her about a hundred questions the past week. She keeps encouraging me to ask all the questions I want. She seems like she really wants to make sure that her teachers are happy. I think that besides being a great person, she also realizes that because this is a charter school, we teachers are not under contract. We are completely ‘at will,' so we can quit at anytime, if we get a more appealing offer.

As I spend more time in my classroom, I am realizing that however long I estimate a task taking, I should multiply it by two or three. If I think that it's going to take a half hour, then it's really going to take an hour or and hour and a half. As I was putting up my first bulletin board, I stopped quite a few times and thought to myself ‘wait a sec, you should do it this way.' I like how casual the atmosphere is at the school. The teachers that are there are nice and relaxed. We're not as productive as we maybe should be, however we're definitely enjoying ourselves. It's so neat to see how close the other teachers are to each other. The first time that a teacher sees another teacher they haven't seen all summer, they usually greet them with a hug and treat them like family. A few times, as I sat in my room, I heard a couple teachers walking down the hallway saying ‘(My real name) is here? How cool'. They typically come up to me and say ‘so you're (my real name), I've heard a lot about you, welcome!' This obviously makes me feel really good. I feel very welcomed. There was only one time when I got a comment about my gender. One teacher said, ‘So, you're the only guy down here?' I just smiled and said, ‘Yeah, I'm used to it. There weren't too many guys in the early childhood program, when I was at the university, so it's not that big of a deal. I kind of enjoy it in fact.' I'm looking forward to getting to know the other teachers; this seems like a great group to be apart of!

Paying for a classroom
I put up all three of my bulletin boards on Friday, so I'm feeling good, going into the weekend. I'm still very envious of the veteran teachers. They have so much stuff in their rooms and I have basically nothing at this point. I wish that I had all of the cool things that they have in their rooms. One veteran teacher told me that she spent $5,000 on things for her room her first year of teaching. I don't imagine spending $5,000 on my room this year. Shoot, $5,000 is a years' rent at my apartment complex! School doesn't start for another three weeks, so I've still got plenty of time to prepare, however I'm starting to feel a bit stressed already. There are so many things that I want to do. I suppose that's just part of being a rookie. I'm just trying to take everything in stride.

I spent Thursday evening working on various things. I have a feeling that before too long, I'll be living the adage ‘Eat, Sleep, Teach'. I heard that we're supposed to get keys to the school and our classrooms next week sometime. One of the other teachers said that once we get our keys, we can stay as long as we want and we can come in on the weekends. I was thinking of investing in a small televison that way I can spend my Sundays working on stuff in my classroom, while watching football (I'm partially kidding!).

Wednesday is the first day that all of the staff have to report to work, so I'll get to meet the rest of the staff then. As a staff, we are all going on a retreat from Wednesday through Friday, at a nice resort. From what I've heard, the retreat is loads of fun and is a good way for the new staff to get acclimated with the returning staff. I'm sure that I'll have some good stories to tell, when I write my next entry!

A wise teacher once told me that great teachers are excellent at kicking back and relaxing, so I suppose it's time to practice doing just that...

The Kid Teacher