Substitute Teaching For Kindergarten:How To Make A Difference
First Words To A Substitute:Where's My Teacher?
I started substitute teaching when my child was in first grade. I found it to be both challenging and rewarding. It gave me the opportunity to use my degree, and earn some extra income. I was lucky enough to have been given different grade levels to teach, which allowed me to do a comparison among them. Out of all the grades I taught, I found teaching kindergarten to be the most uplifting, and exhausting.
One day I was substituting for a kindergarten teacher at my child’s school. The teacher’s students were very well behaved, quite relaxed and at ease in their comfy little room. About halfway through the day, I heard screaming coming from the kindergarten room across the hall. A few minutes later, someone from the office was carrying a child out of the other room, and the child was kicking and screaming the whole time. I knew there had been a substitute that day in that class, and I really felt for the poor person who had endured that all day long. The next day, it was my turn. I was asked to please take over the class with the screaming child.
Fortunately, because I had witnessed what had happened in the class the day before, I had enough sense to ask what was going on in the class. Apparently, the teacher was very ill, and the class had been exposed to four different substitutes that week, none of whom would agree to return to the class. It was only five weeks into the school year.
That morning, I walked into the class with my armor on, ready to take control. Basically, it was a zoo. One child was clutching a blanket, and screaming for her mother. The child who was bodily removed from the class the day before, was under my chair, attempting to grab my ankles. There were children coloring on the tables, and children picking on each other. Something had gone terribly wrong in this class, and I knew I had to find out what happened.
Raising my voice would not work; I could tell from the moment I walked in. Any attempt at starting with an authoritative manner would only add fuel to the flames. Basically, I decided to come down to their level, to see if I could find out what was going on.
I gathered the children on the floor around me, and I sat indian style, just as they were. Quite simply, I asked them to tell me what was going on. They were only too happy to talk to me.
They did not really know what was happening with their teacher, or if she would be back. It was obvious that they didn’t understand what a substitute was. They were frightened. There was something they had been desperately trying to learn for the last five weeks, but suddenly it was taken from them. What was missing, was their routine.
They wanted to be good, and follow the rules, but they weren’t quite old enough to handle the routine on their own. They were arguing with each other about what they were supposed to do next-get ready for story time, or get ready to go to the bathroom. They needed to be reminded of things, like most six year olds. What they did remember, they took great pride in, and wanted so desperately for the substitute to praise them for their good work.
I was there for three weeks. Together, we were gradually able to get their routine back. The most important thing I did the entire time I was there, was to listen. This helped the students trust me. If we were writing the calendar on the board, and I used the green marker when they said the green marker was for the weather, I listened and picked up the correct color marker. I listened if they said the students with lunch cards were supposed to go to the cafeteria before students with lunch kits. I found the solution to the chaos in one word: respect. Not so much their respect for me, but my respect for them.
It takes a very patient person to substitute for kindergarten. But if you try it, you might find that you get more out of it than you ever thought possible. You gain an understanding, and appreciation, for what it’s like to be six years old again. But most importantly, you get the satisfaction of knowing you made a difference in a child’s life, even if it’s just for a day.
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