[MenTeach Note: We’ve asked a man who just finished his teaching program to write about his teaching job. We’ll post each of his journal entries during the year. Post your comments here for him to read – and of course, wish him luck!]

So, the last two weeks have been full of ups and downs… Shocker eh? Two weeks ago seems like such a long time ago to me. Monday was a rough one. My principal called me in and went over some of the things that are going wrong and what some parents are ‘concerned about’. We had a discussion. She was nice and professional about it, but direct too. I knew it was serious when she sent me a big e-mail documenting what we talked about. This was the first that I’d heard of any of these concerns. It bothered me that a parent would go directly to the principal without talking to me first. I suppose that I should just get used to it. I’m a very direct person. If I have a problem with someone, I go to them and politely and professionally address my concern. I wish that my students parents’ were like this.

Oh well, part of the job I suppose.

My principal basically said that my classroom management skills are not very good and that I need to improve them (in simpleton terms). She suggested many things that I already know how to do and am currently doing (with varying degrees of success). I just kind of sat there and took it from her. I stood up for myself a few times, saying that I’m doing X or I’m doing Y. I suppose that the biggest thing that I got out of it is that even if I have no friggin’ clue what I’m doing, I can’t show it to my students’ parents. This is hard for me, since I wear my heart of my sleeve 110%. If I’m confused or nervous or scared, I’m going to show it. I’m working on concealing it a little better, but it’s hard. There’s that delicate balance that a rookie teacher needs to find in which they are providing the parents with the correct answers to their concerns without sounding like a bumbling idiot. I feel so stupid sometimes when a parent asks me about something and I’m not 110% sure, so I say that I’ll consult with my assistant and get back with them. This makes me look like I’m the assistant and my assistant is the lead teacher. I don’t want to tell them one thing and then have to go back to them later in the day or the next day telling them something different because it makes me look like I don’t know what I’m doing. This whole idea of not knowing what I’m doing happens quite a bit, I’m getting used to it, however I still don’t like it and the uncertainty that comes with it.

It sucks how a principal will hear one thing from one parent and/or see your room on a couple of small occasions and make a judgment about your classroom based on those small snippets of time. I know that I am doing a solid job (not a great job, not the kind of job that I know I am capable of, but not a terrible job either). I have a lot of room for improvement, but frankly I think that even someone who’s been teaching for 30 years can improve. It’s all about growing and evolving. After my talk with my principal, I did some self-reflection and I realized that the raising my voice has to end. I’m going to teach my class in a calm and professional way, whether they like it or not. I shouldn’t have to compete with them, with noise or excitement.

Yeah, I need to adapt my personal style to their individual interests and needs, however ultimately, they are the ones who need to adapt to ME. I believe that what I’m doing is good. I just need to be a little more consistent and a lot more sure of myself when I am doing it.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and my principal will happen to walk by when I’m doing one of my many amazing things. It’s funny how she’s a nice lady who is professional, yet I’m still terrified of her. I wish that she’d call me down to her office just to say that I’m doing a great job, a good job, or maybe even a semi-decent/not crappy job… any sort of validation would be awesome. I’m thinking that I’m always going to be scared of her. The position is completely at will because I am not protected by a union, so I get nervous as heck whenever I’m around her, even though I know that it would take a lot for her to fire me. She would be an absolute fool if she even thought of it, I’ll tell ya that much. I’m thinking that there are many other rookie teachers out there who are feeling the same way. At our school, we have a mentoring program. I wish that we had a rookie mentor program. Since I have to eat lunch in my room (which sucks big time), I almost never get to talk to the other rookie teachers and see if they’re feeling the same way as I am.

I do have to admit that the Tigers World Series run has definitely affected how good of a job I’ve been doing. Teaching kindergarten on six hours of sleep is just plain stupid. I’m a HUGE Tigers fan, so it was impossible to turn off the television when a playoff game was still on. I taught what I wanted to teach and I survived, but I was not doing as good of a job the past couple of weeks as I’m capable of. I’ll chalk it up as a lesson learned. I’m going to try to work on being in bed by 10:00, that way I can get a solid 8 hours every nite… we’ll see how long it lasts :P.

I suppose I should enjoy being able to stay up late and still do a decent job teaching, while I’m young…. I was lucky enough to land World Series tickets… Easily the best nite of my life. Someday when I get married, I don’t know if my wedding nite could top my nite at the World Series. A friend of mine and I hung out in Detroit all day, prior to the game. We stood on the lower level behind the left field foul pole, and had an AMAZING time. We got on a ton of tv stations and had a blast. I didn’t get to bed until 2 am. Luckily I was smart and got a personal day the following Monday. Let me tell ya, personal days are my new best friend. I slept until noon, and just relaxed. I didn’t think much about school and I felt re-charged going into school on Tuesday.

Tuesday was our first field trip. We went to the Apple Orchard. I did the majority of the prep work prior to my absence on Monday, so when I got to school on Tuesday, I didn’t have to do a whole lot. I was pretty darn nervous because I knew that many of the parents would be attending the field trip and my principal was coming as well (she goes on all of the field trips).

Can you keep a secret?

We’ll soon see. As the parent volunteers filed in, I looked for the permission slips. As I looked for the slips (of which I had no clue where they were at), I kept telling myself ‘keep it cool, relax, smile, act like nothings’ wrong’. The children were completing an activity and I had the parents signing paperwork, so I was able to semi-frantically search for the slips. I kept thinking ‘holy crap, my principal is going to kill me, what am I going to do.’ I pulled my assistant aside and asked her if she thought that the emergency cards would work in place of the permission slips.

She calmly said, ‘Sure, it’ll be allright.’

I promptly grabbed the emergency cards and tossed them into our backpack and went on with the day. During the field trip, it was very apparent that we practiced walking with our groups. The past few days, we practiced holding hands with our group members and not walking ahead of myself. My kids held each other’s hands as if they were going to get shot if they let go… it was a beautiful thing… they stayed safe and I looked good ☺

We had a blast and by the time we got back to the school (about an hour before school got out) all my students wanted to was sleep. So, we napped, had snack, and went home. Wednesday was pretty easy because the kids (and adults) were still pretty tired from the field trip and there was no school on Thursday and Friday. I wasn’t prepared, so I took in a cake knife to cut open a pumpkin… not a good idea. There’s a reason why pumpkin knives are made they way they are. It was rather amusing trying to cut this big pumpkin up with my cake knife. The kids had no clue ☺ I ended up chopping up the pumpkin into huge pieces. I put the seeds at one center for them to count and the pumpkin chunks at another center for them to play with… pretty darn cool.

We were at a conference Thursday and Friday, which was nice because:

A) It was two days without kids, and,

B) I didn’t get to bed until 11:45 Wednesday nite and 1:30 on Thursday nite. Thursday’s Tigers game made me really mad so I had troubles getting to sleep. I didn’t really learn a whole lot, but I enjoyed spending some quality time with my co-workers… Plus, I looked really cool walking around this convention center with six or seven attractive women surrounding me.

There was a lot of free good food which made me happy. I got some small toys to play with from some of the companies that were trying to sell junk. This also made me happy. I also enjoyed the fact that 75% of the people there were women. The scenery was quite good, even in my not sufficiently rested and pissed off about the Tigers-state. Free food + free toys + lots of women made me a very happy guy… It helped soften the sting that accompanied the Tigers throwing away the World Series (no pun intended).

When it came up that I was a male kindergarten teacher in a few of the sessions, I got a few funny looks, but for the most part it was all positive. I went to the store today to drop off some film and as I was chatting with the photo lady, it came up that I teach kindergarten…. The look that I got was priceless. Yeah, I like working with kids, but probably the best thing about being a male kindergarten teacher is telling other people and seeing their reaction (especially women). I’ll practically go out of my way to drop that I’m a kindergarten teacher, the way that those annoying people who’s mother’s brother’s cousin’s best friends’ secretary’s uncles’ second wife’s child is a celebrity, go out of their way in a general conversation to let you know that they are connected to a celebrity… I love it!

On another positive note, I adopted a partially blind Pug this weekend from a rescue. I firmly believe that he will help me keep my sanity/avoid getting too stressed out this year. I don’t feel stressed out right now and I’m quickly developing thick skin, however I think that by having Hunter here when I get home from work, I’ll be able to do a better job of relaxing and forgetting about school while at home. I took him to school with me this morning, since I usually spend about four hours every Sunday morning preparing for the upcoming week.

He definitely liked my classroom… He used his doggy words to claim it as his own about two or three times. While at school, I was basically able to get my lesson plans and my materials together for the three weeks in November leading up to Thanksgiving week.

This feels AMAZING, I’ve never been this far ahead. Now, it’s up to me to not get lazy so that being ahead will allow me to do the things that I used to wish that I had time for. Well, I should have the time to do them (at least in theory). If it is to be, it is up to ME…..

The Kid Teacher