When I tell people that I’m a kindergarten teacher in an international school, they usually automatically assume that my job consists of just playing with kids all day. I’ve even had someone tell me before that they’re more tired than I am because they ‘have a real job’.
Oh, my goodness. They could not be more incorrect.
Let me give you a rundown of my basic day.
When I get to work, I have to first change and clock in, then take and log my temperature on a clipboard. At 8:30, we have a morning meeting with all the teachers and the principal gives us a list of a bunch of new rules she just made up. She sits in the office all day and just pushes work on other people. She doesn’t even realize how much extra stress she adds on with her ridiculous demands.
At 9:40, we open the doors to let the kids in. It doesn’t matter how tired or stressed we are; we have to greet them with hugs and smiles and happy voices because the parents are watching as they drop them off.
For the most part, all that is okay. It’s what’s after that’s hard.
In a classroom average size of about 26, I go upstairs and have to try to get all the kids to finish changing before 9:15. After that, we have morning circle time where I need to manage to teach these 5 year old children to memorize and properly sing at least 3 new songs a month. They’re getting pretty good at reading the calendar and talking about the weather, though.
We have a very strict schedule including bookwork for math, writing, phonics, reading, and an English test called Eiken. We have arts and crafts once a month where we are required to teach a new skill every time. We also have to make sure all the bookwork is done nicely. If the handwriting isn’t good, we have to erase it and have them go again. If a child misses a day and doesn’t do a page with the rest of the class, we have to make time for them to catch up. Crafts, too. We have a list of words with pictures that make no sense, but we have to teach these to the kids and they not only have to remember the words, but the pictures that go with it and the meaning because they get tested on it months later for their report cards.
While we do all this, we also need to make time for two snacks and a lunch. The kids are required to finish their snacks in 15 minutes and their lunches in a max time of 40 minutes. Because of Corona, we have to make them eat in silence. When’s the last time you tried to make 26 5-year-olds eat in silence?
We also have 15 minutes to wake them up from nap time, clean all the cots and put them away. Within the 15 minutes, all the kids also have to go to the bathroom, put their socks and shoes back on, then line up for gym class.
Every day, we have a certain area of the school that each teacher is supposed to clean in addition to our own classrooms. Fridays are the hardest because I need to not only clean my classroom and all the bathrooms on the third floor, I also need to wipe down all the chairs and lockers in the room with alcohol. The last of the kids generally leave at five, but I get off at 5:30 so that doesn’t leave much time to clean at the end of the day, so I try to get most of the cleaning done during gym time, and Japanese time (a total of about an hour and 15 minutes).
I also have a special needs kid in my class. He can’t sit still and likes to hit other kids and pull their hair and throw things, so I need to always keep an eye on him. Multi-tasking is a must in this job.
So next time you hear that someone is a kindergarten teacher, please don’t assume they just ‘play with kids all day’. Because let me tell you, I’d much rather sit at a desk all day with computer work and phone calls all day and work with adults that may argue but they at least know to get a tissue when they have a runny nose.