As I slump in a chair at the end of a day teaching kindergarten, I remind myself that, although I feel overwhelmed at times and unsure at others, I am learning each day. I was placed in this position without having any previous training or experience as a kindergarten teacher. I remember feeling very intrigued at the time my principal and VP suggested the switch from grade 3. I could have refused but instead I accepted the challenge. Now I cannot imagine teaching anything else. I’ve been a teacher for over 25 years, but not a kindergarten teacher. Kindergarten is a whole new ball game. Did I mention that it is a fast game, too? It feels as if the school year has slammed into the Christmas holidays and will continue to gather speed in January.
After four months, I am beginning to feel a teensy weensy bit more confident with the planning and activities in the classroom. Although we share and co-plan, I like to ask my ECE counterparts for their opinions about something I have planned because they are the ones with the years of training and experience at this age level. I may have a general theoretical notion of how and what may work, combined with my personal experience as a mother of two boys, now grown up, but really, that does not amount to much compared to what the ECEs bring to the planning table and to the classroom. It takes a team that respects and effectively collaborates to make a kindergarten class run well, and I feel privileged to be part of such a team.
And the kinder classroom is so very different from the grade 3 classroom where movement and noise could regularly be brought to a minimum during a learning period. My English counterpart often uses the term, “Birthday party behaviour” to describe behaviour we seek to curb in the kindergarten classroom – the kind of free-for-all party atmosphere usually experienced at the end of a birthday party.
It is an apt description. All the more so since the set up for a well-run kinder classroom feels rather like hosting a birthday party as you plan and prepare enough activities to keep the attendees interested, focussed, and engaged, and you circulate to make sure everyone is happy. Imagine hosting a birthday party for 27 five year olds every day… no other grade quite fits that description.
As we gallop along, trying to tie up loose ends, follow through on planning, assessment, evaluation, meeting the curriculum, and contacting parents about behaviour, speech issues, and hearing problems, the only thing that remains constant is each young student – little beings who need to play and explore, and whose emotions are so immediate. They are going at their normal, five year old speed when they come to school each day and we are trying to keep up with them. No wonder I am exhausted at the end of the day.