(Background and Disclaimer: For this post, I will refer to the kindergarten teacher as ‘she’ and ‘her’, because I have only known kinder teachers who identify this way, and will be referring to my experiences throughout.)
The kindergarten classroom is the starting place of a 13 year journey that leads to graduating with a high school diploma. Some children get a jumpstart by attending a preschool, and others are experiencing a structured school setting for the first time. Every child is entering their classroom with different strengths, needs, social histories, and personalities. The masterful kindergarten teacher is prepared for the uniqueness of each little on the roster. She knows that relationships, routines, and procedures are a lifeline for a successful year, and sets out on a mission during the first weeks of school to be laser focused on them.
The first weeks of kindergarten are very telling of the individual students. There may be tears, tantrums, refusal, interrupting, inability to sit, stand, line up, follow a one step direction, remember their teacher’s name is not “Teacher”, and so much more! There is never a dull moment in kindergarten, but it is especially interesting during the first month!
Week 5 is coming to an end, and the kinder teacher is beginning to feel a sense of accomplishment. Students are aware of what it means to walk in a line, come to the carpet, place their belongings in their cubby, and less kids are calling her “Teacher”! There are less tears, tantrums are rare, and refusals are diminishing. Whew!
There are a few kids that worry the teacher as the sixth week of school begins. Kadence is still hiding under the table when she doesn’t want to use her pencil to write. Sam is continually showing aggression toward his peers, pinching, pushing, and slapping them. Keeley is struggling to make friends, because she invades their space and makes other students uncomfortable by not keeping her hands to herself. The kindergarten teacher has been watching closely for these behaviors to improve in the first weeks, because she provided several strategies and tools for each student. They are not adjusting socially, and she knows it is time to sit down with families and share concerns.
Her heart is heavy. No one wants to hear negative things about their child. Kinder teachers have the terrifying responsibility of being the first teacher of the 13 year journey to share with a family that their child is showing some concerning behaviors or struggles at this point in the year. That is TOUGH, but what she doesn’t realize is that she is planting the seeds that may produce plentiful fruits.
Some families will be very grateful to have such a caring teacher–one who is honest and doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but also reassuring and loving. This year, the unfortunate happens. The family refuses to support the teacher and blames her for their child’s negative behavior. They become offended and feel their parenting skills are being attacked, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The scenario above is not uncommon. In fact, it is becoming more common every year of my career. As an administrator, my number one priority is to advocate for the best interest of ALL children. Sometimes that means that adults may not agree with me. It could be the family who disagrees, or it could be the teacher. In the case of this scenario, it will require some push back on the family in order to do what is best for the child. My administrative morals require me to stay focused on the child, and to protect the teacher by mediating conversations.
I See YOU.
Kindergarten teacher, I see you. You open the door for conversations that must happen in order for kids to be successful. Your efforts are the starting point for identifying needs. Some families aren’t prepared, and they will blame you. Usually, those families will come to understand and they will thank you at the end of the year for being such a wonderful and caring teacher. Some will not realize where your heart is until years later, when other teachers validate your concerns. You may not get credit for anything you did to open the door for support. That is so unfair.
Kindergarten teacher…I see YOU.
I see how much you worry because you know you are the first teacher to ever share concerning information with a family.
I see you having private conversations with struggling students, teaching them the social skills they need in order to make friends and learn.
I see your tears at the end of the day, when you feel as if you have failed over and over (but you are way too hard on yourself, because you haven’t failed…you just haven’t found what works…YET.)
I see how you are attacked in a note or text message from a guardian or parent who is placing the blame on you. They say you are unfair. They say you are mean. They accuse you of not liking their child. They say they want to have another teacher.
I see how hurt you are when a family comes straight to me and complains, without ever sharing their concerns with you. I see that, and I will not tolerate it. I will listen to them and support…AFTER they communicate with you. And, I will give advice to the family on a proper way to do that. I won’t leave you alone.
I see you, kindergarten teacher. I wish I could say that this will go away, but it won’t. You are the planters of the seeds, and you begin by cultivating the soil, and nurturing it each day. You plant those seeds and you watch over them so carefully, even when your hard work and commitment is overlooked by some. The great thing is, so many people DO see you. The people who don’t are just not prepared to…YET. It will take a team to support untrusting families. You, kindergarten teacher, cannot do this alone.
I see you. I see children and families come back years later to visit and catch up. I see kids stop by and hug you as they walk to their classrooms in upper grades. I see you invite former students to come read to your class, continuing to invest in them long after they have moved on.
I see you, and I appreciate you.
(A teacher who is serving in an administrator role, and is a HUGE fan of ALL teachers)
~To all the families who remind their child’s teachers how amazing they are….I see YOU! It means so much, so continue to share the love!~