End of Year Returns

When I first took a job as a teacher, I was expecting to get work experience out of it, to save some money, and to learn about language acquisition. I have gotten all of those things out of it, but the greatest lessons I’ve learned are grace, forgiveness, and patience. Teaching preschool is a big challenge in giving love. First, you meet a group of children you don’t know, and their parents, who don’t necessarily like you or trust you. You give everything you can to these children; you serve them, teach them, love them, encourage them, and remain patient with them when they try their hardest to make your life difficult. You do what their parents tell you to do, even if they are not polite in giving those instructions. You do things you don’t want to do, like helping kids use the bathroom or punishing them for bad behavior.  But you also share wonderful moments with them, like learning new songs, discovering that they are able to write their own names, chasing them on the playground, and sharing jokes. You see them every single day, and come to know their every mood, desire, and weakness. You even might spend some idle moments watching them play and considering which one you would be willing to adopt if given the chance. You worry about their nutrition, and feel relieved when the picky eaters expand what they’ll eat. You get excited about new activities that you know they’ll enjoy, worry about them when they’re home sick, and give them a shoulder to cry on after they scrape their knees on the playground.  Some days they might cry when their maids or drivers come because they don’t want to leave class, and sometimes you might miss them when they’re absent from school.

And then at the end of the year, you have to say goodbye. You might see them around again next year, but chances are, they won’t really remember much about you after a little while.  I certainly remember very little of my preschool teachers, and I know that the students are so young that they will forget most of what has happened this year, even though it is the foundation for what they will learn for the rest of their lives.

I am not returning to teach kindergarten again next year, and I’m glad of it. It’s not what I want to do professionally, but I also can’t really imagine starting over another year with new students. I can’t really imagine going through that same process again, especially because I remember that at the beginning of the year (and even several months in), I felt like some of them were so hard for me to love, but now feel so attached to them.  One thing is for sure: when I have my own kids, I’m not letting them leave they house until they’re thirty.

My Inner 3-Year-Old

This morning when I lined up my students to go to gym class, one of the girls told me that she didn’t want to go because she doesn’t like lining up, and she was hungry.  I told her we had to line up to go to class and that we could eat later, and that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to.  But what I was thinking was that I also absolutely hate lining up, and had actually been planning to eat an apple while the kids were in gym because I was also hungry.  I think I’m supposed to be wiser than a kindergartener, but I’m not doing such a good job of following their rules.

Along with teaching English, my job is to teach kids how to behave in a group and how to follow directions, get along with one another, and adjust to being away from their homes.  I’m not entirely sure that I’m an expert at any of those things…or that anyone is!  My student Jenny hates playing with the loud boys, and I always sit by coworkers who are quiet on the bus home.  My student Lena cried this morning because a boy hit her and so she wanted her mom; I felt sick yesterday afternoon and the only thing I really wanted to make me feel better was my own mom.  Julian won’t eat his salad because he wants to eat cookies; I like salad pretty much, but I don’t always eat it when I have peanut butter cookies in my fridge.  Little Kenza comes up to me at the end of every day and asks with pleading eyes, “Momma?”  It’s her first year spending each day away from home for so long, and it’s difficult to adjust.  This is my first year far away from home, and I don’t feel like I have it much easier than she does.

The lessons we learned in Kindergarten will certainly apply for the rest of our lives.  At twenty-two, I still struggle with being away from home and doing the things I should do before doing the things I just want to do.  In fact, I’m thinking of applying my own teacher techniques to my daily life.  Next time I want my mom, maybe I’ll distract myself by drawing a picture.  Or maybe next time I want to check Facebook or bake cookies more than I want to go to work, I’ll give myself a time-out.  And you can bet I’ll be giving myself a sticker after I’ve finished this blog post.