[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!]

Wow, I’d like to apologize for going so long without writing. It’s not that things have been crazy, I’ve just fallen into this habit of not doing anything school related when I do not have to. The past two weeks have been pretty good for the most part. I really feel like I am settling into a groove.

Teaching Kindergarten is nice because we typically study one letter a week. This allows me to use the same learning centers every week, just with a different letter. I actually made up a template on Microsoft word so that I do not have to write out the same things each week in my planning book. I think that this is the general theme of the past two weeks… learning to be efficient. The quicker I get things done, the more time I have to relax (which is paramount as a rookie teacher). Every few days, I’ll try something a little bit different in an attempt to improve my efficiency. Last week, I pre-counted out cups and paper towels for a weeks’ worth of morning and afternoon snack. At first it seemed like a decent idea, however when I thought about it a little more, I realized that it didn’t really save all that much time. I am starting to settle into the habit of pre-writing my newsletters, when I do my planning on the weekends. I’ve noticed that this comes in handy when Wednesday rolls around and I’m exhausted and not feeling like doing anything at home. I just look over the newsletter, make a few changes, copy it, and send it home… speaking of which, I forgot to do this weekend, so I’ll be writing the newsletter tomorrow night or perhaps during my prep period tomorrow.

In the classroom

I’ve organized my students into groups based on their ability level, with the goal being to do guided reading groups (hopefully soon). This has also allowed me to differentiate some assignments. The two high groups are able to practice writing BOTH the upper case and the lower case letter that we are studying, at once, while the two lower groups have quite a bit of difficulty, so I only ask them to practice the upper case letters or the lower case letters. My assistant alerted me to the fact that she thinks that the two high groups might be capable of learning to add. I hadn’t thought of this. So, I asked her to start assessing the children of the two high groups’ readiness for addition. She’s still testing, however I’m thinking that for next week, I’ll create math center for the mornings, where the two high groups will work out of an addition workbook with my assistant, while my two low groups continue to work on writing their numbers. I think that as I become more comfortable in my role as a teacher, I will look to differentiate my centers/instruction even further. I’m excited that, a month into the school year, and I’m already comfortable enough to try to do it. The other kindergarten teacher isn’t even doing learning centers yet (which makes me feel good!).

Starting Math

Over the past two weeks, I also started using these math workbooks that my principal gave to me the day before school started. Each page has a mini-lesson on it. I really like them. Our school does not use prescribed ‘math program’, so it is up to us to teach math however we see fit (which sounds cool, but as a beginning teacher is kinda intimidating). These pages are easy to teach, yet educationally stimulating, and they help to make planning a little easier (which is always good).

I feel like things are going well, however I feel like I’m definitely in a survival mode. I may not be moving as quickly as the other teachers are, however I’m doing activity and centers that teach and re-teach what I’m trying to teach. I told another teacher today that at the end of the year, I may look back and say that I could have taught my children more, however what I am teaching them, I will be confident that the knowledge will be retained. Two or three times a week, the children are practicing writing their numbers, on my laminated number sheets. Two or three times a week, they are practicing writing their names. Three or four times a week, they are practicing writing the letter that we are studying. I’m really hammering away at what I’m teaching. I will be able to say that I know that all 22 of those children know and understand what I taught.

Taking care of personal needs
Over the past two weeks, I got contacts and got a short haircut. I look quite different than I did at the start of the year. I feel better too. I feel like I look like a teacher, not a college kid trying to become a teacher. My kids first told me that my contacts made me look like ‘Bob the Builder’, which was rather amusing. My new look combined with my increasing level of comfort gives me confidence not only in the classroom, but outside of school.

Outside of school, I am trying to deal with a very painful breakup. School has been a nice distraction, however I was with this girl for a year and a half and I was pretty sure that I was eventually going to marry her. We totally broke up right around when I posted my last entry. I know that what happened was for the overall good, however when a relationship like that ends, it’s never easy (even if you realize that you’re better off w/out that person).

If anyone knows any nice looking women in their mid-20s, looking for a nice, male kindergarten teacher, drop me an e-mail. (I’m partially kidding!) At the very least, my friends joke with me that I have the greatest pick up line known to man kind. They say that if I tell a single woman that I’m a kindergarten teacher, I’m in… We might just have to put that to the test over the coming days and weeks :P.

Since I graduated in April, everything else in my life has changed, so it’s only fitting that her and I broke up. Between breaking up and settling into my classroom, I am feeling like I have finally finished growing up. I no longer feel like a kid, in awe of the fact that I am now the teacher. I am that confident man that I’ve always wanted to become…. It’s about time?!?

For the most part, I’ve been having fun teaching. We made slime last Friday, and my students are enjoying hearing my crazy voices and corny jokes throughout the day. I like to get my kids moving around (especially during calendar time) and I’d like to think that everyone enjoys themselves for the most part.

However there is one student that is absolutely driving me up the wall. Today, I honestly had no idea what to do with him. Let me preface this by saying that I have a special needs child of whom I allow to wander and roam the classroom throughout the day because he has difficulities focusing at group time and center time. I’ve dubbed this child ‘the wanderer’ when talking to my friends about school.

I have another child of whom I’ve dubbed ‘the crier’ when talking to my friends. The crier cries whenever he does not get what he wants (it could be a toy or not wanting to go to a particular center, or not wanting to sit at grouptime) Lately, the crier has been wanting to imitate the wanderer and play with him all day. The Crier has started to tune me out and then cry whenever I try to make him do what he’s supposed to do.

I made a deal with him last week where for every hour that he behaves well, he gets a little certificate. He’s earned a few of them, but in his mind, if he doesn’t earn one, he views it as a negative thing. I’ve been trying to frame it as a positive, however he cries if he doesn’t get one. This obviously means that it’s not serving it’s intended purpose. The Crier says that he does not know how to control his body and that it’s my job to teach him to. I don’t know how to teach him how to control his body. The crier has been getting progressively worse. I finally got sick of it yesterday and called home requesting a conference with mom.

Today, the behavior continued. This afternoon, he was utterly out of control. I tried being positive, I tried being mean and getting in his face and raising my voice (even though I was taught not to do that), I feel like I’ve tried many different things and I’m just not getting through. I’m frustrated. I’m very frustrated. (especially after today).

The Crier was gone one day last week and it was amazing how much easier my job was. I was actually able to circulate the classroom and talk to some of the children that I normally don’t get to talk to because I’m busy dealing with the Crier. I’m facing this dilemma of putting the Crier on lockdown and basically working with him one on one the entire day for the next week or so, in an attempt to stop his bad behavior, however at the same time I have an obligation to the 20 students who do what they’re supposed to do on a regular basis.

I am torn. It’s not fair to the kids that always behave well that I’m giving so much of my attention to this one child, however this one child is literally driving me nuts. I’m so tempted to just say ‘alright, Crier I’m going to ignore you completely until you see/learn how to do what you’re supposed to do and if it takes you the entire year, then you’ll just have to repeat Kindergarten’. It’s tough. I believe that I can help every child, however at what cost? Is it worth neglecting the other children so that I can help this one child or do I help my 20 other children and reward them for doing what they’re supposed to and continue to deal with… It’s the classic dilemma. I’m doing my best and teaching my rear end off and trying my best not to let the Crier get to me too much….

I suppose that’s all I can do. I go to school everyday ready to give it my all, determined to give my kindergarteners the best kindergarten education I possibly can….

The Kid Teacher