The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten

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Last month, I wrote about 10 Things Your Kindergarten Student Wants You to Know. This month, I wanted to share The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten – a bit more about what Kindergarten teachers may want you to know!

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I wanted to share the truth about teaching Kindergarten - a few things a Kindergarten teacher would like you to know!

The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten

If you are a Kindergarten teacher, you likely already know everything that I am about to say in this post. You know what goes into a typical day in Kindergarten. You know what Kindergarten teachers and students do each and every day.

I used to think everyone understood what goes on in Kindergarten. At least, until I began to be on the receiving end of comments such as these: (Please note that I understand these were sometimes said with the best intentions!)

“Oh, you teach Kindergarten – that must be pretty easy, right?”

“You really like Kindergarten? I would have guessed you would like something a bit more challenging where you do more.”

“Ahh, Kindergarten is fun, you get to teach them the alphabet!”

“It must be fun to play with the kids all day.”

“What do you mean you can’t join us? School gets out at 2:30 right?”

“Oh, they are just so cute! They must be dolls all day long.”

“Back in my day, we had 30 kids in a class, 25 kinders isn’t many.”

“Kindergarten? Well, at least they don’t have to learn too much in Kindergarten.”

What’s REALLY Happening?

I used to (and sometimes still do honestly) get really annoyed at these comments and feel the need to defend myself and Kindergarten teachers everywhere.

Then I realized that the people making these comments actually aren’t making them to be rude. I’ve come to realize that honestly, they just don’t know the truth about Kindergarten.

They think they are just making conversation and actually perhaps giving compliments. People just don’t know, and can I fault them for that?

If I could guarantee that everyone in the world would read this post, that would be glorious. I know the reality is that the people who read this post are probably already teachers. But, I am okay with that! We can stand together and know what really goes on in Kindergarten.

For a good laugh, check out 7 (funny) signs that you are a Kindergarten teacher.

Here’s the Real Story

Here is the TRUTH about teaching Kindergarten (from the eyes of this Kindergarten teacher anyway) in direct response to those comments:

“Oh, you teach Kindergarten – that must be pretty easy, right?”

Kindergarten is most definitely not easy. I have taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade as well where, yes, the content grows and gets more complicated, but I find Kindergarten to be the hardest, in my opinion (and still my favorite) of all. (Not to say other grades aren’t hard – teaching is hard!) You are taking some students who come in literally not knowing any letters or numbers, and unlocking the keys to literacy and math!

Have you looked at the most current standards for what Kindergartners need to know? (I guess if you aren’t a teacher this probably wouldn’t be your weekend leisure reading. ๐Ÿ™‚ ) It is not simply ABC’s and 123’s but rather things such as: fluently adding and subtracting within 5, decomposing numbers to 10, adding and subtracting within 10, reading CVC words and high-frequency words, and much, much more.

When I taught older grades, if a student was struggling, I could go back to “the basics” and build up from there. In Kindergarten, we kind of are the basics! If you ask me, sometimes the basics can be the hardest of all to teach, because they are the foundation pieces of future learning.

Forget academics for a minute. Some things we take for granted in a classroom (lining up, going to the bathroom, sitting down, putting things away, etc.) many Kindergartners have NO IDEA how to do at the beginning of the year!

If you think getting 25 Kindergartners in a line to follow you somewhere on the first day is easy, think again. I am telling you, they wander, they don’t understand to follow the person in front of them until many train songs and practice sessions later. If you don’t believe me, come visit me in September. ๐Ÿ™‚

Forget routines for a minute. Let’s talk social skills. Kindergarten is a HUGE year for learning social skills.

Things such as taking turns, conversations with peers, how to handle when you don’t get your way, managing emotions. Those things are taught and fostered each day in Kindergarten and do not just “happen.” They also aren’t easy to teach.

This is different than having children at home, where yes, VERY important (perhaps the most important) learning is happening. This is a whole classroom of children at once, each needing social skills support in different areas.

“You really like Kindergarten? I would have guessed you would like something a bit more challenging where you do more.”

I am not sure what you mean by “do more.” In Kindergarten, I don’t think I ever sit down, unless I am reading a story or working with a small group. Instead, I am constantly on the go, assessing, evaluating, teaching, helping, nurturing, and much more.

If you mean more challenging by more challenging content, see above about why Kindergarten content isn’t necessarily “easy” to teach.

“Ahh, Kindergarten is fun, you get to teach them the alphabet!”

Yes, I do get to teach them the alphabet, and that IS fun! I also teach them what those letters mean and how they relate to our everyday world and reading.

Phonemic awareness, number sense, patterning, life skills, social skills, are more ways I get to prepare them for their journey in school and life.

“It must be fun to play with the kids all day.”

I do have fun teaching, and we do play in Kindergarten! I am very blessed to be in a school that supports the importance of play at this age. However, “all day” is a bit of a stretch, and I think the term “play” is not correctly understood.

When children are engaging with centers and toys (kitchen, blocks, legos, books, dramatic play, sensory) they are NOT “just playing.”

They are:
– building social skills
– taking turns
– learning how to have conversations
– learning real-life skills and applications
– doing math
– reading
– working on fine motor skills
– being inquirers
– making connections and much, much more

“What do you mean you can’t join us? School gets out at 2:30, right?”

My students leave at 2:30 yes. I am allowed to leave at 4. Do I? Not often.

There is lesson planning, room preparation, paperwork, evaluations, data, and much, MUCH more. A teacher’s work is truly never done.

“Oh, they are just so cute! They must be dolls all day long.”

Yes, however, they are also 5 and 6 years old and learning how to navigate this world of school.

Their social skills are developing and depending on personalities each day can be very different from the next. They may cry, have tantrums, lash out, need more support with interactions, be tired, cranky, and more.

This is to be expected sometimes and it is my job to help them grow! It just, however, isn’t always so “cute.” ๐Ÿ™‚

“Back in my day, we had 30 kids in a class, 25 kinders isn’t many.”

If you asked your teacher I bet he/she would disagree. ๐Ÿ™‚  The higher the number of students means less one-on-one time with students. I can assure you I work HARD to ensure that my kids feel like they are the one and only and I ensure that each and every child’s individual needs are met. But I can guarantee that if I had a smaller class size it would be even stronger.

I have heard before, “You are doing great with that many kids!” So my response is, “Well, then imagine what I could do with less!”

While I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world, I know for a fact that smaller class sizes have a significant impact on teachers and students both.

“Kindergarten? Well, at least they don’t have to learn too much in Kindergarten.”

I don’t think I need to answer this one actually. See above. ๐Ÿ™‚

No matter if you are a teacher or not, each job in this world has its place and is special in its own way. I truly believe that we can’t fully understand someone’s job unless we do it ourselves.

My hope is that these thoughts can provide a bit of a glimpse into not just a Kindergarten teacher’s day, but really any teacher’s day!

I love teaching. It is such a huge part of me that I can’t really imagine doing anything else! So, for all you teachers out there, Kindergarten or not, keep on doing what you do best!

This post was not meant to just defend or share the hard things I do in a day. I want to end on this positive note with the many wonderful things I do (and every other teacher too) every day!

A favorite quote is, "I work harder and care more than I ever thought possible. I am a teacher."

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Alex
Latest posts by Alex (see all)
The Truth About Teaching Kindergarten
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80 Comments

  1. Spot on Alex! I am proud to say I have 'survived' kindergarten for 15 years- and although there is no other grade I would ever want to teach, I don't think anyone really understands everything that goes into being a kindergarten teacher! The hats we wear, and the lives we touch, wrap circles around the world! My fondest memories are of my own kindergarten teacher- other teacher flow in and out of memory- but Mrs. Edwards and her duck skirt, piano playing, hair in a bun, always there with a smile and hug lives in me each day. Your post made me think of that quote that has been floating around… 'Everyone is in awe of the lion tamer in a cage with half a dozen lion…everyone but a kindergarten teacher!'
    I think there wouldn't be a kindergarten teacher that would disagree with any of your statements!
    Thanks for the great post!
    Jenn
    Crayons & Cuties In Kindergarten

  2. Great post! I must say, I continuously get "You must have had an easy day, you guys just play all day anyway don't you?" from other teachers (yes, I find that part appalling), but no one else ever seems keen to take up the 'easy' Kindergarten post! ๐Ÿ˜‰ THEN it's like, "oh, I could NEVER handle it! I don't know how you do it!" LOL! I always find the quick change of opinion pretty funny.

    Rock on K Teachers! x

  3. Hi Alex! I loved your post and glad you did a linky party. I first taught in California with class size reduction 20:1. It was awesome! I would love to have class size reduction again at some point!
    Suzanne @Kindergarten Planet

    1. Hi Sarah! I tried again, but for some reason when I click post comment, nothing happens. The page doesn't do anything. I clicked refresh and tried again, but nothing. Darn!! It maybe is something on my end. I loved your post and so appreciate you linking up!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I loved, LOVED your last line about spending a year in the lives of these future artists, professors, creators, etc.

    1. Thank you so much Jaime! I really appreciate you taking the time to read the post and leave such a sweet comment! My hope was to get across a point but hopefully in a loving way from my heart (that is tricky with typing where people can't read tone!) so I appreciate your comment! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I finally got tired of the following statement "You don't need a degree to teach kindergarten right?" I displayed my college and masters diplomas in my classroom. Your article is great. Thanks from a 38 year teacher all in Kindergarten:)

    1. That is quite a statement! Kudos to you for displaying those hard earned degrees!!! Thanks so much for reading the post and for your kind words. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Every word of it is so true! I almost feel like an actress some days…I tell everyone that there is nothing like knowing 20 five year olds will be walking through your door, at 7:30am, every day, depending on you for their every need AND their education. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I LOVE their innocence and joy about the smallest, seemingly insignificant things. They teach me every day to appreciate the little things in life.

    http://ateacherheart.blogspot.com

    1. Isn't it amazing how much we can learn from our students? I agree that they teach us everyday in some way – like you said, one of those ways is to appreciate the little things. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

  6. Excellent post! Yes, I've heard all of those same comments and sometimes it's really frustrating. People just don't understand. And one thing that ups the stress level is the almost-constant testing we're required to do in K now. I wish I could just teach…

    1. Hi Robin! I agree sometimes things can get so overwhelming. I always have to remind myself to pause and reflect on the many amazing things of teaching! I truly love kinders – and kind of like what you said, when we can just teach, that is the best part! Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment!

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