In May of 1967, I had graduated from college with a bachelor’s in early childhood education, completed my student teaching requirements, and passed the New York City teacher’s licensing exam. I was fortunate that the principal, of the school where I had done my student teaching had created a new kindergarten class for me that would start in the upcoming school year. I was excited and thrilled that my life-long goal of becoming a kindergarten teacher was finally going to be realized. In addition, I was to be married at the end of the summer, right before school started!
So, when the principal asked me if I would do some substitute teaching in June, during the last month of school, I jumped at the opportunity. I would be getting classroom experience as a “real” teacher…and I would be earning some extra money that would certainly be useful for two newly-weds.
The first call came one early morning in the first week in June. I would be taking over a second grade. As I parked my car (parking cars on city streets near schools is a whole other blog post topic) and walked into the school, my heart beat quickly…a little with nervous excitement and a little with happiness at embarking on this new journey.
Many schools divide each grade level into homogeneous classes…that is, most of the students in each class are at a similar learning level. The 2nd grade students in the class I was assigned to were so smart and self-motivated …they almost didn’t need a teacher.
I walked into the room…the children filed in a few at a time…smiling at me…taking their seats. When everyone was seated, I introduced myself. From that moment on, the day was an absolute dream. The children knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing in each subject…and they did it…with very little direction from me. At the end of the day, I was convinced I was a natural…destined to be the best teacher ever!
When the phone rang the next morning, I answered it with a smile. “I’ll be right there.” This time I entered the classroom with confidence. I had been assigned to a fourth grade…even better, I thought.
Two boys walked in, pushing each other. Another was shooting spit balls out of a straw.
And it was all downhill from that moment on.
At one point, I sent one of the girls to the chalkboard with a basin of water to clean it off…one of the boys grabbed the basin and upended it over her head. Books were purposely dropped on the floor while another child was reading out loud. One girl began crying that her pigtails had been pulled by the boy sitting behind her. No one had done their homework…no one knew what lesson they had been studying. Very few had their books…and those that did were using them to hit any classmate within reach.
They were out of control…and I felt helpless to control them.
By the end of the day, I was almost In tears…convinced that I had been mistaken about my career choice.
When the phone rang the next morning, I ignored it. During the night, I had given a lot of thought to my experience. I decided that the money was not as important as the destruction of my hopes and dreams. I knew where I belonged…in early childhood classes. It was what I had prepared myself for and I wanted to be able to look forward to the new school year with eager anticipation.
I did go on to teach kindergarten and Head Start for many years…and I can honestly say that I LOVED every minute of it…from the lesson plans, to the story readings…from the field trips with two lines of boys and girls holding hands, gazing in awe at the museum exhibit or the animals in the zoo to snack time with milk and cookies.
I have so many fond memories of my teaching days…and I am thrilled to be able to be back in the classroom again. My SHOW ME HOW Story-Time Program for the local Pre-K and kindergarten students has enabled me to share the picture book stories and craft projects recommended in my new book. I was also able to share with the parents who attended the presentation on Thursday the importance of reading to young children, talking with them and participating with them positively.
If you have young children and need some story suggestions, great eco-friendly craft projects and easy-peasy healthy cooking activities, why not grab a copy. Head on over to my website where we’ve slashed the price to $22.50…that’s 50% of the cover price. It will be the best gift you could give to yourself and your preschooler.