Things I Wish I Knew as a New Kindergarten Teacher

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Being a first year teacher is an eye-opening experience. Being a first year kindergarten teacher can blow you away. There are were more than a few things I wish I had known going in that first day that would have made a HUGE difference from the beginning. In case no one has told you already, let me give you a heads up.

I don't mean a little tired. I mean OMG how can I make it to Friday tired. Do not make plans in the evening your first week of teaching kindergarten. You will be ready to fall asleep by 7pm. Do yourself a favor and give in to the need to sleep. You and your students will thank you.

Buy some comfortable shoes, break them in well, and wear them the whole first week (or month). You will not sit down the first week of kindergarten. Make peace with it now and it will be much easier. I keep an extra pair of shoes in my room, just in case. You never know when you're going to need it.

Assume they don't know how to do anything. No, really. And it will be okay. Practice everything. You'll think they know how to hold a pencil/glue stick/water bottle, but they may not. Many more than you think will have no experience doing any of these things. You will have to model how to sit down correctly, and stand up correctly, and walk correctly, and hold things correctly. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! I can't stress this enough. If you take the time the first few weeks of school practicing EVERYTHING, you will get so much more done throughout the year. Some classes get this faster than others. Don't compare yourself to your neighboring teacher's class. She doesn't have your kids. Yours will be ready in their own time, which may be before or after hers.

Law makers seem to think that kindergarten is the new 1st grade. Each year, they add more and more to the curriculum. Kids are being pushed harder and harder each year whether they are ready for it or not. Kindergarten should be, and is, more about learning how to behave in school and get along with others than it is about academics. Am I telling you to ditch the standards? Absolutely not. But count on doing just as many social skills lessons in the beginning of the year as you would academic lessons. Many kids have never played with other kids their age regularly for any length of time. They NEED lessons on how to make it all work. And don't be afraid to go back and revisit those lessons whenever needed (think winter break, spring break, all through May, and any time in between).

Every time we do anything (walk, go to the restroom, start centers) we review expectations. They forget what is expected of them. Even when it's the 150th day of school and you've done the same things the same way everyday up to that point, someone will forget. Scream during Daily 5? It'll happen if you don't remind them (and maybe even if you do).

You will go to the store just for things like superhero bandaids, popsicle sticks, a 20 pack of play sunglasses, lima beans, clothes pins, 75 glue sticks, 15 different kinds of snack foods (for the best lesson ever!), cream of tartar in bulk (make your own play dough, it's way cheaper), a 30 pound bag of  rice for sensory, food coloring, and more washi and duct tape than you ever dreamed of. You will spend an entire paycheck over the course of the year in the Target dollar spot or at Dollar Tree. You will cause a scene in the office supply section because you are squealing with glee over the cutest supplies you've ever seen. Other shoppers will think you are crazy. If you have teenagers, they will think you are crazy. If you have younger children, they will ask for one of the said cute things too. You will buy 8 and wish you had more.

Some weeks are crazy. Parents will help you cut things out, laminate, make copies, etc. if you ask. I have even paid my teens at home to help with these things when I'm feeling overwhelmed. Your teammates are your support, your family is your support, and parents will help if you ask. You do not have to be Superman. (Although, you'll soon find out you already are.) Kids LOVE to help the teacher. Give them jobs. Things will be much more smooth than if you try to do it all yourself.

Contact parents about good stuff. They automatically assume the worst when you call if you don't also send out shout outs every once in awhile. When you contact parents with the great stuff their kid does, they will be more inclined to back you up if you have to call with bad news.

I've heard teachers say, "Don't smile till Christmas." That's absurd. Your classroom should be a second home for you and your students. After all, you and your crew will spend half your waking hours there for 175 days this year. Do everything in your power to make your room warm and inviting. That includes smiling.

You may get licked. You will have something stuck to your butt at some point. Someone will throw up and/or have an "accident." You will be sneezed on. There will be unidentified stuff in your room or on you. Wash your hands. Take your vitamin C. Get plenty of sleep and exercise. Have some "you" time. You'll need it.

Yes, you will. With every single one of them. Even the one that drives you up the wall and makes you start your countdown to summer in October. You will fall in love with them. Their smiles are contagious. They say the craziest things. You will have STORIES to tell--things no one but another teacher will believe. You will love all of their quirks. Even the ones that exhaust you.

They will talk about you at home, write you love notes, call you "Mom" on accident, and insist that you are right when their mom and dad say otherwise. You matter to them. Some days it will feel like you are talking to the wall and not a single little in that room is listening to you. But they do. They hear everything you say and it resonates with them forever. Please be nice. They will look up to you. Be their light.

You guide them on a daily basis. You know how they work and what motivates them. You know which ones you can give a "look" to when they are forgetting the expectations, and which ones need something more than a look. You will keep data on your littles, but you won't need a data wall to tell you what they need. You will advocate for them, you will be their voice, and you will be their rock. You will be just as proud of their accomplishments as their own parents are. You'll know how much work they put into those success and you will be their biggest cheerleader.

Kindergarten is a calling. You have to want it. You will live, breathe, eat, sleep, and dream about your kinders. You will stay up at night thinking about them. You will worry about them when they are not with you. You will pray for them. You will cry for them. You will be grateful for the honor of being called their teacher. Every bit of it is absolutely worth it.


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