Sometimes I feel really unqualified to be a kindergarten teacher. Like when we are talking about birds and how some birds can’t fly and then I’m suddenly not sure whether penguins can fly or not and I have to double-check with the teacher across the hall. (They can’t, by the way. I’m pretty sure..) Or the times my students yell, “Draw it, Teacher!” and my attempt at drawing a giraffe or cheetah or whatever looks ridiculous and they all laugh at me. (I’m pretty sure they usually ask me to draw pictures on the board just so they can laugh at me..)
Oh and then there are those afternoons when my brain isn’t quite functioning properly and I end up hearing sentences like this repeated back to me: “That is um, um, um, a phonics book!”
But those very moments of ineptness are what the kids love about me. (Or one of the things.) They love imitating the way I let out a little “ah!” every time I drop the board markers or erasers. They love making angry faces at me when I accidentally tell them to circle the wrong word in their workbooks. And an especial low was when one girl called me a grandmother because I handed her a wet tissue when she had asked for a piece of tape. She really enjoyed that moment. (She grinned and said, “I think Teacher grandmother..”)
I like to think that my little quirks and scatterbrained mistakes are part of what create an atmosphere of safety for my kids. I show them that it is okay to make mistakes. I model for them how to respond when you accidentally do something wrong. (Yell, “Oops!”)
Some of my kids literally start crying when lessons are “too hard.” One of them looked on the verge of tears when he was taking a practice standardized test last week and realized he didn’t know all the answers. I view it as part of my job description to throw that kind of paralyzing pressure out of our classroom and replace it with a safe, fun learning atmosphere.
I think I’m pretty good at that part of my job, because I not only make lots of mistakes, but I know how to celebrate when I do something well. Yesterday I drew some really skilled animal pictures on the board, and the kids shouted out, “Wow, really good, Teacher!” In Korea, people generally shake their heads and outwardly deny compliments, but I said, “Thank you!! Man, I don’t want to erase these drawings because they’re so good!” I hope they follow my example in that, too.