1.02.2011

They shoot male kindergarten teachers, don't they?

Oh, the internet. It never ceases to amaze me (I hope I don't sound like an old fuddy duddy here...) how people are brought together through the web. I receive emails from folks all over the world with comments, questions, and ideas.

Recently, Philip, a reader from Australia (a place I've always wanted to visit), sent me an email. He's been thinking of changing careers and becoming a kindergarten teacher. Philip has been getting a lot of flack from his friends and family about this decision. He had a few very specific concerns that were brought to his attention by those around him. Here they are and my reply.

Philip,

Teaching kindergarten has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my LIFE. I mean that too. Each day presents challenges, but an equal number of rewards. Let me reply to each of your concerns one at a time.

Ok, here goes.

1. But you're male (people will think you are weird)

People think I'm weird anyway. I smile all the time. I sing and dance in the teacher's room with veteran teachers. I wear green sneakers (really, they are green!). I teach my class the robot and other awful dance moves from my youth. There's nothing wrong with being DIFFERENT. If being 'weird' means being different, sign me up. Who wants to be plain, boring, or ordinary? If loving the work you do - teaching children to observe and notice the world around them in unique and creative ways makes you weird, then be weird. If knowing you are making an impact on a child's life, even just for a short time makes you weird, then be weird. If wanting to share a little bit of the joy you have for life and learning with sprouts just beginning their own journeys in education makes you weird, then embrace being weird!

2. People will think you are a molester (you cannot touch or be touched by the kids)

If people think I (or any other man who works in my school or with young kids) only works with children to 'molest' or 'touch' them, they are idiots. I hate to be crass, but that's how I feel. I'm offended by anyone who thinks that about me... spend an hour in my classroom and then decide how I feel about my students. Oh and by the way, I'm affectionate with my students all the time... it's ok to rest a hand on a shoulder in support... sad or tired kids lean on me on the carpet all the time... it's fine to offer a hug or receive one if the giver asks first. I do show my sprouts how to hug me properly (hands above my waist please), but there are tons, I mean TONS of hugs in my classroom. Heck, even the parents have been known to offer me a hug. A hug is a smile with your arms - who wouldn't want that?

3. It won't be as mentally stimulating

Um, that's ridiculous. I am challenged, both academically and socially daily by my students. When you have a room of twenty plus kids, all with different backgrounds and abilities and you have to teach them all - that's not just mentally stimulating, it's downright overwhelming at times... trust me.

4. You're wasting your potential

Again, ridiculous. What's your potential? How many of your friends who work in the business world change lives? That's all I have to say about that.

5. You've never been into handicrafts

Here's a secret nobody wants you to know. You do not have to be crafty to teach kindergarten. Trust me. I'm just about the most uncrafty person I know. Kindergarten is NOT, I repeat, not all about crafts. We do some basic stuff (paper bags, cotton balls - real basic) and my class has a ball. You'd also be surprised what you can find online... I've made some quite dandy stuff based on others' lesson plans and ideas.  Most sites even offer pictures with steps for the craft-challenged.

6. Screaming kids are really hard work

If you do your job, they won't be screaming. Crying? Maybe the first few weeks, but that ends quickly. We're having too much fun dancing, singing, learning, and playing to be screaming.

7. The mothers are the big problem

I have to say, when I started teaching kindergarten, the parents were a big fear of mine. Here's another secret, if their child loves school and loves you, the parents are going to be very, VERY happy. Keep the lines of communication open (I send a daily email with what we've done in class) and invite parents in to observe or volunteer. I do think the first time many of my students' parents meet me they are a little surprised to see a man teaching kindergarten. This dissipates very quickly. After a few years, you'll get a reputation in the community as a fantastic teacher and you'll have nothing to worry about. Mothers want their kids to be happy and successful. I can't say I blame them.

So there you have.  Go out and buy yourself a pair of green sneakers (or whatever your favorite color is) and find the joy in teaching.

19 comments:

Joan said...

Very inspiring post! I hope you have a wonderful new year.

Jana said...

Very powerful and inspiring! You were able to put in to words my own personal feelings. Being a kindergarten teacher completes who I am as a person. Thank you so much for sharing.

Karen said...

Do you know the problem with this world?? There are not enough people like you in it! Thanks! Be who you are, be the way the Lord made you! I enjoy being different!!!! Teaching kindergarten, or in my case pre-k, is not a waste of time, it is a joy! You my friend are an inspiration!

Buena said...

I've been teaching for almost 40 years...most of them in Kindergarten. I can't imagine a more rewarding job. We need more teachers like you...men AND women! Your students are so lucky! Keep singing...and smiling!

Good advise to someone thinking about becoming a teacher!

Mrs. Pearce said...

You captured all the wonderful reasons to teach Kindergarten. I have been known to wear duck or puppy slippers around the classroom, so I COMPLETELY get the green sneaker analogy! I am heading back to the classroom tomorrow after a long Winter Break and reading your post reminded me how much fun it is going to be seeing my Kinders again!!

Sexy Naptime said...

you should make that into a poster!!

Dorothy Shapland said...

Well said! There is NOTHING as rewarding as teaching Kindergarten, and those who question the choice to do so, simply haven't had the gift of singing and dancing with 5 year olds! Thanks for this!

Pam said...

I LOVE the fact that you wrote this! There are so few male teachers in early childhood- and so many misconceptions. Thanks for writing this!

Scott said...

As a guy that has been in the early childhood field for years, I must say AMEN!

"Wasting your potential?" How many other jobs get to impact the future of our world? That's the greatest use of your potential possible.

Plants seeds of knowledge...for our future! said...

I for one think there needs to be more male teachers in early childhood! I also believe it takes a special person to teach kindergarten and special does not mean male or female! If you have the ambition, patience, passion, creativity, and determination GO FOR IT!!

(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures said...

Love this post! Great humor and inspiration. ps. I own those same green saucony's.

Miss Farah said...

This is so true people judge a lot and in fact Kids like male teachers more, especially if he is fun and can make a difference like you! If you don't mind I'm sharing this on my website and linking it to yours thank you!

Karen said...

There are so many times when I read your blog and am thankful to work with you...this is certainly one of them! I'm even more thankful to be your friend!

quiltmom said...

What one does in the classroom does not have a lot to do with gender. Some of the finest kindergarten teachers I know have been male teachers.
I work in a high needs school so I think it would be great for my students to have a male teacher. I had the privilege of having a male educational assistant for two years and he was a great role model for my students.
You did a great job of expressing some reasons why you love being a kindergarten teacher.
I know I do and this is my 33 year of teaching ( all of it spent teaching primary age kids - and a kindergarten teacher since 1985)
Happy New Year.
Regards,
Anna

luckeyfrog said...

I love seeing male teachers in early elementary because for some students they can be the only strong male role model they have.

Other than that, I can't think of many reasons why gender matters. I would say that teaching isn't particularly respected where I am. Everyone says they respect teachers, but then when some of my high school classmates ask what I'm doing now, they seem to look down on me for my 'less than intellectual' job. (I think it's that "wasting your potential" kind of view.) It does bother me from time to time (because elementary teachers don't just have to KNOW how to read; they have to be able to TEACH it to many different students who learn different ways and at different paces- MUCH harder), but honestly, it's something I mostly try to forget about. I need to do what makes me feel happy and influential, and for me that is teaching. The people that are my friends are those who respect me and think I'm intelligent anyway.

I still hemmed and hawed at the original decision to become a teacher instead of a scientist, but what swayed me was spending some time in a classroom and seeing what it's like. It's probably been a long time since you've been in kindergarten, Philip- so go in and volunteer (most classrooms will be happy to have you!), and make sure it's really what you want. If it is, I think you'll know for sure when you spend time in the classroom. If kindergarten isn't it (I don't have that kind of patience!), check out some other grades.

In any case- good luck. It's hard sometimes to decide to change careers and I hope you find whatever it is that makes you happy :) Do keep in mind that this blog makes it look pretty easy most of the time- and teaching is definitely hard work! But it's worth it if you love teaching.

Matt said...

When I look back on how I became a kindergarten teacher I thank God every day. It all started as a substitute teacher. I thought it would keep me busy while I "waited for something better to come along". After having to take over a Kindergarten class for a month I finally realized that this was "the better thing". Working with little ones the way I do every day was never even a part of a career choice. Now, after years of working hard doing an impressive list of things, I can't imagine doing anything else. Where else can you go to work every morning and met at the door by 20 co-workers, each one of them is truly glad to see you. The responsibility can be awsome yet very rewarding when I realize that I am responsible for teaching them what is probably the single most important life skill they will learn; how to be a literat person. Too bad there just are not more men Kindergarten teachers. They sure are missing out on a lot of fun.

John LL said...

This is my third year teaching kindergarten in an international school (12 nationalities in a class of 18). It has been a greatly rewarding experience with the kids, but a man might find himself feeling a bit left out of the social interactions that his female colleagues enjoy. Men, I think, do things a bit differently in the classroom and that needs to be understood by colleagues and administrators.

Anonymous said...

I'm a young student who always wanted to work with kids but I always thought it would be weird to be a male kindergarten teacher but after ready this post it's made me realize how much fun and joy it will be to wake up in the morning and always know that the day will be filled with smiles and laughs and then to go home and be excited for what fun will be happening tomorrow.

RIAZ UDDIN said...

Male primary teachers are desperately needed in primary schools. The job however, can be perceived as one not suitable for men. This perception is outdated and inaccurate and puts a lot of potentially great Male Primary Teachers off from joining the profession.