April 1 was my sixth day of kindergarten substitute teaching. I’m ready for some petulant teen angst, BRING IT.
Kindergarteners are interesting little humans. Still young enough to be clingy and demanding, they’re also testing their mettle when it comes to socializing and seeing how they fit in. If I’m just substituting for a day, I really cannot tell who is trying to get away with all they can from who is not having a good day. As the dawn of my sixth day with this particular class approached, I had an idea of:
- Who is dying.
- Who is lying.
- Who is crying (for real).
- Who is trying.
- Who is sighing.
I can also tell you which delightful child will run for student council in a few years and city council in a few decades. There are a couple of boys destined for the NFL. I am quite certain one young lady will be an actress or a pop singer. There’s a free spirit who chooses to engage or not. I do my best to give solid one-on-one time, but sometimes there’s no there there and we don’t connect. The modern classroom is a mix of special needs students, those who excel, and everyone in between. The strong ones look out for the weak, they show each other how to write their numbers and letters, they stick up for each other, and sometimes they can be a little mean. Filters aren’t quite in place, but they’re getting there. At the start of each week in kindergarten, the students are given new jobs:
- Office messengers.
- Lights, doors and windows.
- Paper passer outters.
- Library organizers.
There’s a smart board at the front of the class where the students touch the screen to sign in first thing and indicate whether they are eating school lunch or home lunch and getting milk. The smart board is connected to a laptop computer and a projector, making it very easy to read books or teach lessons to the students while they sit together on the carpet (in their designated spots). You cannot put 18 children together on a carpet, or in groups of four or five at little tables and expect things to go swimmingly all the time. It doesn’t. Sometimes it does, but most of the time it doesn’t. Yesterday, for instance, it was challenging to get all of the students to write their journal entries. Some can finish the writing of the weather and their name and complete a sentence prompt such as “There is a big spot on …”, and draw an illustration about it in less than 15 minutes. Others take longer. How to keep everyone engaged, from being distracted, from picking on each other or spacing out? That is the question to which there is no one answer.
When I’m substituting a class of K-3 graders, I usually get a few hugs at the end of the day. It’s sweet and it keeps me motivated. But sometimes I struggle as I try to stay positive. Like when I have to get them lined up for the cafeteria or music class, for a fire drill or to the playground, the children don’t exactly move as a single centipede toward our destination despite my prodding. Sometimes they walk backwards, sometimes they walk into posts, sometimes they clump up here and there, sometimes one or two is way far ahead and one or two are way far behind. At any given time this week while towing the line I heard:
- Mrs. Bender, he said he was going to kill me.
- Mrs. Ender, can I change my pants?
- Mrs. Vendor, he is sharing his snack and he’s not allowed to share his snack.
- Mrs. Uhm, I need to go to the health room.
- Mrs. Hey, did you have your baby yet?
Kindergarteners don’t have their filters firmly in place, and that can be rather refreshing. On the other hand, I’ve learned to keep my filters firmly engaged, and I suppress quite a few chuckles, too. One of the highlights of substitute teaching is returning to a school and getting shout outs from the students you had worked with before. And another one is remembering names. I’m actually quite excited about remembering names. It’s important to the students, and it’s an indication that I’m not losing all my marbles.