Mommy! My Pre-K Teacher is a Boy!
How does the journey through education system lead to a person choosing to be a Pre-K teacher? Let’s take a walk through the life of someone who chose the education profession with the want and desire to teach the youngest students. The first thing we need to get out of the way is whether wanting to be a teacher is innate or developed. The whole nature versus nurture argument, we’ll save that for another blog. For our purposes, we will say that it is innate. Just go with me on this one; who in their right mind would want to babysit 20-25 other people’s children for 6-7 hours a day for the “enormous” amount of pay teachers receive?
Knowing I was destined to be a teacher from the day I was born, I took on certain leadership roles growing up:
- Being the first one to see if I could cross the four lane street during rush hour without stopping (the screeching sound scared me more than the cars).
- Riding my bike down the steepest hill in the neighborhood, forgetting that I was on my older brother’s bike with only hand brakes.
- Running through the neighborhood (I guess blindly) and having my lip meet the concrete pole (still have the scar to prove it).
- Chasing that one girl (every neighborhood had that ONE) not listening to my friends as her older brother walked around the corner.
- Joining the basketball team while my friends joined something else (could go into details, not necessary for this blog).
- Graduating high school and then immediately going to college (older brother and sister completed but didn’t go directly to college).
In college I had to make a decision between money, celebrity, notoriety, fame, distinction, recognition, or being a teacher. It was such a hard choice, but as I said earlier, I was born to be a teacher. Other excruciating decisions had to be made in this field of education. What was I going to teach? Below is chart of pros/cons of my choices that help me make my decision.
|High School||Coaching; one or two subjects||Teenagers who think they are adults|
|Middle school||n/a||I remember when I was in middle school|
|Elementary school||More freedom on curriculum; teach every subject||Have to give young students failing grades|
|Early Childhood||Get to start off the students off; see tremendous growth, parents more involved, flexible curriculum, students love you, etc., etc., etc.||Snotty noses, dependent students, diapers|
Obviously, I chose Early Childhood. Who wouldn’t after looking at the chart. It was also nice that all of my classes were full of human beings of the opposite sex (who were extremely infatuated with a male early childhood major). I like to tell myself that last part and it makes for a good story. After completing the various classes, observations and practicums, I was drawn to the really early grades. At the time, I knew there was a stigma, from people not associated with education, that is linked with males in the field of early childhood. It didn’t fit me. In fact, everything about my exterior challenged any preconceived stereotype that had ever been made about early childhood teachers. However, my passion was for the youngest children. The way they responded to my presence in the classroom assured me that I was wanted and needed in the earliest grades. I made up my mind after 16 weeks of student teaching (8 in 1st grade, 8 in pre-K) that any grade over 2nd would cause me to go running instead to work to become famous, a celebrity, rich, etc. Hence, my first teaching job was in Pre-K.
It takes many hours of dedication and purposeful practice to perfect a craft. I did not have the luxury of growing up in a household that included teachers. I was the first classroom teacher in my family. How was I going to make sure I would be the best Pre-K teacher possible was with the 10, 000 plus hours needed as Syed suggests in his book, Bounce. (p. 12) Maybe I had the natural talent. Even though in college I went through many hours of pre-service work, it was not anywhere close to having a classroom of your own. Many questions were in my mind on how to perfect this new adventure:
Should I read more books? (not a good idea, reading put me to sleep…and still does)
Should I visit more Pre-K classrooms?
Is this really what I am supposed to do?
How can I make this the best experience possible?
Another aspect I had to face was being a male pre-k teacher. I truly just wanted to teach. I knew that there were not very many males in the Pre-K field and that different stereotypes were placed upon those who were. I sometimes struggled with the notion that I would have to defend myself to colleagues and friends about my choice. Was this really the feelings and thoughts of everyone else, or was it a mindset? (Syed, p. 169) I somehow had to work through these struggles to clear my mind, to hopefully help me succeed.
“That’s a nice bulletin board!” “That’s such a cute idea!” “That’s so sweet!” “Oh, how pretty!” The preceding phrases were never words that I could imagine would ever describe my work in early education. I never thought of anything I did as “sweet” or “cute.” Yet, I had to start thinking this way because of the fact that I was involved with the youngest students. What could I do that could bridge the gap between my rough exterior and the tiny minds that I would be affecting for years to come. How could I be “sweet” and “cute” but still feel like myself.
As the first year approached my mind was inundated with what was going to happen in the classroom. I had to remove the doubt and have irrational optimism. (Syed, p.169) Students did not have a choice but to love this “big teddy bear.” Parents would trust me to teach their students. Administration and colleagues would believe I was the best for the job.
Finally, the first day arrived and doubt started to creep into my mind again. Standing 5’11” and weighing about 220 pounds (that was the “freshman 15”…plus 15…plus 15…plus 5) over students maybe weighing in at a whopping 34 pounds and at a height of about 40 inches, I greeted them with a traditional “GOOD MORNING BOYS AND GIRLS”. I can only imagine how my deep, bellowing voice must have echoed in each of their little heads. Still, the first day went smooth. I experienced the normal first day jitters for teachers and students with a couple of tears as parents dropped their students off, but as the day went on I knew I had made the right decision. This was my calling. Students were comfortable and sought help when they were feeling down. I even received a few hugs as they were leaving for the day.
After an exciting first day as parents picked up their students, one little girl excitedly told her mother, “Mommy, my teacher is a boy!”