Saturday, December 30, 2017

Diary of a First Year Kindergarten Teacher: 5th Entry

Tuesday, September 2

Dear Diary,

What a waste of a day!! All I have to say is, thank goodness I went in last week and got my room set up. 

I decided to go to work on time today rather than my usual 45 minutes early. Big mistake!

When I arrived at Adams Elementary this morning, Mrs. Staltz's door was closed and the lights were off. I thought this was odd so I asked the custodian, Mr. Jim, where she was.

Apparently, all of the Kindergarten teachers in the district had a professional development today at another school and I wasn't informed. 

How did Mr. Jim know about this Kindergarten training and I didn't? I felt like a fool.
I double and triple checked my school district email for the notification. I never received it. I could feel my blood pressure starting to rise. 

My first formal Kindergarten training and I was going to be late for it. And not just a little late, over an hour late. 

I hate being late for important meetings. I hate looking incompetent. This wouldn't be happening if I hadn't been forced out of Pre-K Head Start!!!!!!
I went to the office to inform Mrs. Bernard that I hadn't received the email regarding the training. If I don't show up at my designated school for the day I could be marked absent.
She wasn't in the office. I asked Ms. Monroe, the secretary, if she knew where the training was being held and what it was for. 

She didn't but was kind enough to contact Mrs. Staltz, who said it was downtown at Carver Elementary, which was about 30 minutes away from Adams.
The training was for a new phonics program and a coinciding assessment that Kindergarten will be using this school year. 

Great, just great!! 

Not only was I being thrown into a brand new grade without any idea of the curriculum, now I was going to be late for a relevant training. My blood pressure rose even more. 
I drove to Carver Elementary as fast as I could. When I pulled onto the small street where Carver was located there was absolutely no parking anywhere.

The tiny school parking lot was crammed full with cars, and all along the street more cars were wedged into spots so tightly I honestly don't know how their drivers got them out. 

I drove through the surrounding streets for a half hour to see if I could find an open spot somewhere. Of course I couldn't. GRRR!
Frustrated, I called Adams and explained the situation to Ms. Monroe, who in turn relayed the information to Mrs. Bernard, who had arrived to work shortly after I'd left. They told me to return to Adams.
Upon my return to Adams at 11:30, I hoped to receive my class list so that I could at least start scheduling parent conferences, but the list was still unavailable. 

Mrs. Bernard seemed displeased that I hadn't received the email about the phonics training, stating that was most unusual for something like that to happen.
As far as she knew, every Kindergarten teacher was on the mass email sent out by the district. 

She also informed me that it was my responsibility to make up for the missed training. When I asked her how I was supposed to do that she told me to call the district's main office.
By this time I was dizzy with anger. I had run around all morning like a chicken without a head only to be made to feel like I was somehow at fault for the mishap. 

I retreated to my room and spent the next two hours trying to contact someone at the main office about a make-up training, but no one answered the phone.
I'm trying to stay positive about teaching a grade I've never taught before, but I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed. 

In Pre-K new teachers were given an orientation to the program, so they would at least know the basics of what was expected of them. Kindergarten doesn't do that. 
I stayed until 6:00 trying to make up for the time I lost, driving and making pointless phone calls. 

I was able to finish decorating my boards, sharpen the pencils I bought, and get my Large Group area set up with the supplies I'll need on a daily basis: pointers, markers, CDs and stuff like that.
Let's hope tomorrow is better than today.  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Diary Of A First Year Kindergarten Teacher: 4th Entry

Thursday, August 27

Dear Diary,

Despite all of my protesting, I went to work today. I know. I know. I should have stayed home and sucked up my last bit of summer vacation, but I'm glad I went. 

I got the boards decorated; I hung the center signs, and filled up the centers with most of their supplies.

I've decided on the following learning centers:
* library
* writing center
* dramatic play
* math center
* science center
* puzzles/manipulatives
* sensory center
* block center

After 13 years of teaching Pre-K Head Start and a little shopping this year, I have more than enough supplies for students to play with in learning centers. 

I've also outlined the learning directives for play in these centers.
Overall, students will develop their interpersonal language skills while learning to negotiate, compromise, share, and problem solve. 

This will in turn foster growth in reading, writing and verbal communication. Most of all, they will have fun while their learning! 
I didn't get out of the building until 6:00 but I accomplished enough that I WILL stay home tomorrow. 

A nice four-day weekend before my official start date sounds wonderful. On Tuesday I should have a partial class list to begin scheduling parent interviews.
On a side note, my grade partner Mrs. Staltz, doesn't seem too keen on collaborating with me. 

I don't know if it's because I said that I like to teach thematically or not. She and the previous K teacher lesson planned together every week.

I'm disappointed. Part of the reason I was excited to start at Adams Elementary was due to the collaboration between grade partners. 

I love to exchange ideas with other teachers and learn new things. Oh well, maybe she'll change her mind.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Diary of a First Year Kindergarten Teacher: 3rd Entry

Wednesday, August 26

Dear Diary,

I accomplished most of the stuff on my list! It took me most of the morning but by lunchtime I had a large trashcan and 30+ chairs in my classroom. 

Now there will be enough chairs for the students to sit at their assigned tables as well as extras for the Writing Center, Computer Center, and Dramatic Play. 


I also set up the basic layout of the classroom placing the tables, chairs, large group area, and shelves in formation. 

After that, I wiped down all the furniture that I had commandeered. Of course everything was filthy, but the room is starting to look like a real classroom.

I spent the afternoon trying to organize my file cabinet and my desk. Another set of arduous and unpleasant tasks. 

Ms. Slate, the teacher who had the classroom before me must have been bitter when she retired because the disregard for school property is apparent. The incredible amount of trash she left behind is a perfect example.

To my dismay, I discovered that my desk drawers were filled with mouse droppings, my file cabinet was filled with junk: a ton of broken crayon pieces, dried up markers, stacks of papers, and other miscellaneous items that needed to be tossed.

I did find a file with Kindergarten welcome letters and ocean-themed activities that might be helpful. One collection of papers that I was surprised to find were pink slips. 

I didn't know you were able to write kindergartners up for misbehaving. It seems a little harsh to write a pink slip for a child that is so young. I'm not sure I'll be able to do it.

There may be more treasures hidden in those metal drawers, but it would take hours to sort through the mounds of jumbled papers crammed into them. I can't waste anymore time on that.

Right before 3:00 I had a short meeting with the principal, Mrs. Antoinette Bernard. 

She's a blondish woman middle-aged woman with a beaky nose and close-set eyes that scrutinize everything. Her office is well-kept and larger than I thought it would be.

I had heard rumors that she'd grown up as an army brat and ran her school in a similar militaristic style. 

She red-lines staff if they're one minute late, she expects lesson plans to be submitted on time to her exact specifications, and she's as blunt as they come, often embarrassing teachers in front of co-workers and parents. 

I haven't experienced or witnessed any of these behaviors, so I'm trying to keep an open mind.

I knocked on Mrs. Bernard's office door and was promptly told to enter. 

It was much larger and airier than I had expected, almost refreshing after trooping through the dingy, narrow halls to get there.

The entire building needs a fresh coat of paint, minus Mrs. Bernard's office, which is a vibrant shade of peach with bright white molding.

Her U-shaped desk was the immediate focal point, a brand new laptop and phone sat neatly on the glass-topped surface. 

A collection of frames, artfully arranged on one wall, held diplomas and certificates indicating her impressive credentials.

A Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, a Master's in Education with a concentration in school administration and other various educational certifications that confirmed she belonged in the position of school principal.

A large rectangular window hung with lace curtains overlooked a sparse patch of brittle grass and the street beyond. 

I watched the cars zipping by as I sat in one of the leather seats facing Mrs. Bernard's desk while she finished skimming over a file of papers.

 "I hope you're settling in nicely," she said closing the file.
"I am, thank you."

"So what brings you to my office today?"

"I was wondering if you could spare any extra computers for my classroom."
Mrs. Bernard smiled. "I can actually. As soon as the shipment arrives, Kindergarten will be receiving two brand new desktops per classroom."
An unexpected bonus. "Wow. Thank you."
"The shipment may take a few weeks to arrive however."
Crap. I knew there would be a catch. A few weeks could end up being a few months with this district.
"That's fine," I replied, hiding my disappointment.

From what I had observed, my grade group partner and the first and second grades already had two desktops in their computer centers. 

I wondered what had happened to my classroom's computers. 
"It's just nice to know that my students will have access to them. I was also wondering when we would get our class lists. I'd like to start scheduling parent interviews."
"The lists won't be complete until next week. We're still registering students. There's always a mad rush the last week of August and the first week of September."
Double-crap. I'd wanted to send home letters introducing myself to the children and their parents before they came for the interviews next Thursday. 

How would there be time to schedule and complete them all before the children started school?
"Thank you, Mrs. Bernard."
Disheartened, I left her office, my mind struggling to come up with a game plan for scheduling the parent interviews that were destined to flow over into the first day of school. 

If parents don't meet with me before their children start school they're not going to know me, my classroom policies, the supplies they'll need, or where to drop off or pick up their children in the schoolyard.

Great, just great!
In Head Start there were often delays getting a complete list, but there were only 19 children per classroom and a full-time teaching assistant to help set up the classroom if I got caught up in parent interviews. 

What would have happened if I hadn't come in a whole week early to start setting up?
I've wasted three days on tasks that I hadn't anticipated doing.    
Tomorrow I want to start decorating the boards. After I left work, I picked up borders for the boards, tags for labeling the cubbies, and nameplates for the tables. 

I'd like to be frugal and just make some of this stuff, but since I'm doing a lot of heavy duty cleaning, I need to get some things done quickly.

I'm exhausted! I'm sore! I'm aggravated and the school year hasn't even started. Maybe I should stay home tomorrow and relax.

What are your thoughts on teachers getting preliminary class lists?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Diary Of A First Year Kindergarten Teacher: 2nd Entry

This is a fiction story about an inner-city school teacher's experiences. As a former public school teacher, I feel it's important for people to know what teachers and students go through on a daily basis.

Here is my interpretation:

Tuesday, August 25

Dear Diary,

What a day! I spent the morning sorting all of the leveled reading books I discovered yesterday. It took four hours!

It was a real hassle but as I worked I familiarized myself with the books and their sequential progression. 

Since I've never taught a guided reading lesson before, I thought it was important for me to do this. 

I also found a teacher reference manual on guided reading that I'll read later at home.

There's one good thing about having all of these books, I shouldn't have to hunt down easy readers for guided reading.

I've made a list of things I need to do after I leave today and when I arrive tomorrow:

*buy my own classroom broom, dust pan, and brush (I borrowed my grade partners and the school doesn't have any extra on hand to give me. Typical.)

*buy a radio (An early childhood classroom must have music. I like to play classical music when the children arrive and quiet music to help them settle down. Little people need to move their bodies and I have the best CDs for that.)

*find more chairs for students (there are 30 students in a Kindergarten class and I only have 24 chairs)

*set up the furniture in the classroom

*organize my file cabinet (I peeked inside it today. What a mess!)

*find a large trashcan

*wipe down the chairs, the tables, the shelves, my desk...

*ask about computers for the room (My grade partner has two.)

I left early today. I am still on summer vacation and after the discussion I had with my grade partner about Kindergarten students not being able to play in learning centers, I was spent. 

I am a big proponent of play.

I did a thesis on it when I got my Master's Degree. Play is the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy. 

It's how I design my lessons. It's essential for successful learning among young children.

I knew that Kindergartners were expected to conform to more traditional instruction, but I thought they still had a chance to play in centers. 

Over the years when I took my Pre-K students to visit a Kindergarten class, I saw toys in the rooms.

My daughter's Kindergarten class had a Dramatic Play center and a wall of shelves full of containers filled with puzzles and manipulatives.   

There is a loop hole in all of this. The principal (a 38-year old woman that no one seems to like) doesn't visit the Kindergarten very often, the middle-school students keep her busy, and she's pregnant with her first child. 

With all of this going on, I just might be able to squeeze in a little play time. 

Please comment below on your opinion of play in kindergarten.