I thought I might have what it takes to be a kindergarten teacher — but I don’t
By Alicia McAuley
Photo © rawpixel/123RF
Aug 29, 2018
While wandering the aisles of my favourite dollar store for craft supplies not too long ago, a fellow shopper turned to me and smiled: “You must be a kindergarten teacher,” she said, eyeing my basket overflowing with pom poms, construction paper, stickers and crayons. I laughed. “I’m not, but I’ll take the compliment!” I said.
The truth is, once upon a time, I thought that I might become a teacher. And while I ultimately chose a different career path, I’ve often wondered over the years if I might have missed my true calling. But after a summer spent coaching my son’s soccer team, I can say with a high degree of certainty that I do not have what it takes to be a kindergarten teacher or early childhood educator (ECE) — and I’m in awe of those who do.
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As much as I enjoy being a soccer coach, it’s harder than I had anticipated. The kids are genuinely delightful, and having the opportunity to work with them over the past few months has been a privilege. But it turns out that trying to manage a team of 10 four- and five-year-old boys is not without its share of challenges, and the learning curve for a new coach is pretty steep.
During my second week of coaching, I tried to get my team to split up into two straight lines behind a pair of orange pylons, and let’s just say, it was not a successful endeavour. It’s basically why the phrase “herding cats” was invented. The following morning, as I watched my son’s class of 30(!) four- and five-year-old kindergarteners march single-file into their classroom, I couldn’t help but feel a new level of appreciation and admiration for their teachers.
It takes a truly special kind of person to work in a classroom full of small kids every day. I say that as someone who struggles not to yell at my own two children some days when they’re not listening, or are squabbling over the same toy for the millionth time. I can’t imagine the level of patience required to navigate the different personalities, challenges and skill levels of 30 kindergarteners, day after day.
It takes a truly special kind of person to work in a classroom full of small kids every day.
But that’s exactly what kindergarten teachers and ECEs do. It’s what my son’s kindergarten teacher and ECE do. They teach, guide and nurture with seemingly unlimited amounts of patience and compassion. And I’m so grateful to them for that, because they’re giving him the kind of start to school that I desperately hoped he’d have as I watched him walk through the gate on his first day of junior kindergarten (JK) last year.
I still remember my own first day of school — and my teacher, Mrs. Simpson. I was feeling overwhelmed and a bit teary, so Mrs. Simpson let me sit on her lap and “help” her take attendance, parroting each name that she called. She made me feel comfortable and safe in a setting that was brand new and a bit scary. She made school a fun place to be. I’m lucky to have had many incredible teachers on my journey through the education system, but Mrs. Simpson was the first, and I’ve never forgotten her.
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That is the real magic of kindergarten teachers. It’s not just in the curriculum that they teach or the skills that they help to develop (though that is certainly impressive, too). It is their power to inspire and encourage a love of learning that can last a lifetime. They are the first in a long line of educators that will become part of a child’s life story. If a parent is a child’s first teacher, then kindergarten teachers are the teammates we pass the baton to as our kids enter the world of formal education.
My brief stint as a soccer coach may be coming to an end, but I’ve learned enough this summer to know that working with kids is not for the faint of heart. So as we inch closer to the start of a new school year, I’m thinking about all the hard work that kindergarten teachers and ECEs are already doing behind the scenes to get ready, whether it’s setting up their classroom or preparing their lesson plans. And I hope that one day, when my kids are grown, they’ll remember their kindergarten teachers as fondly as I remember Mrs. Simpson. I know that I will.