Breanna Deshazer spends every day coloring, pasting, playing with play dough and teaching the ABCs, but her job as a kindergarten teacher is considered the fourth scariest job in America.
A survey was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 3,103 U.S. workers to find which jobs Americans feared most, and kindergarten teacher ranked fourth. The survey states there are 158,084 kindergarten teachers in the U.S.
Being a kindergarten teacher can be scary for those who are afraid of germs, temper tantrums and shaping the minds of America’s youth. As a frightening career, kindergarten teacher ranked after politician, microbiologist for infectious diseases, and security guard at a teen pop idol concert, but it ranked ahead of occupations such as animal trainer, mortician and stand-up comedian.
BYU graduate and former kindergarten teacher of five years Jamie Smith understands why kindergarten teacher made the list while other teaching professions did not. “I really have a feeling that it takes certain personalities to be successful at different levels at education,” she said. “Some teachers are cut out for teenagers, but they wouldn’t be able to handle the kindergartners. You have to love what you do. I don’t believe just because you are a teacher you can teach anyone well.”
Deshazer, a kindergarten teacher at Provo Peaks Elementary, believes the job is possibly just too intimidating for some. “There is a lot of pressure,” she said in an email. “For most children, this is their introduction to the public school systems. As a kindergarten teacher we are with a child during their ‘first impression’ phase of school. We have to make it fun enough for them to enjoy learning but hard enough for them to stay caught up with the curriculum.”
Another kindergarten teacher at Provo Peaks Elementary, Holly White, has been teaching for five years and said she loves her job. “Where else can you play, sing, doodle and make fun crafts all while learning?” she said in an email. “Plus these kids say the funniest things. I was excited about being a kindergarten teacher for the fact that I love little kids.”
Smith chose to become a kindergarten teacher because she felt it was the most rewarding. “After student teaching and substituting and all different levels, kindergarten was my favorite,” she said. “That was the curriculum I enjoyed and the kids I enjoyed; it was very rewarding.”
This is Deshazer’s first year teaching, but she wanted to become a kindergarten teacher because of the malleability of the children. “At this age they are very easily influenced by what is around them, and I believe I work hard at surrounding them with the right priorities,” she said. “Plus, I love a good challenge.”
When asked what they loved most about teaching kindergarten, all three women had plenty to say.
“They make me laugh,” Deshazer said. “It’s highly encouraging to have that many children looking up to and respecting you. But I think my absolute favorite part about my job is the little victories — finally seeing the a-ha moment when something clicks in their minds (and) helping them realize that they can really try new things or do something they didn’t think they could.”
Smith said she really enjoyed everything about teaching. “I enjoyed the prep, the curriculum, the interaction with the kids and the parents, I also very much enjoyed my interaction with my other kindergarten teachers,” she said.
White loves watching the children grow and learn. “The thing I love most is meeting this little person at the beginning of the year — kinda scared, wide eyed, unsure of what is going on; then at the end of the year they leave taller, bigger, more confident, proud and usually with an excitement to learn.”
As much as these women love teaching children, they understand that it is not all fun and games and can be challenging at times.
Smith felt the hardest part of being a kindergarten teacher had nothing to do with teaching the children but everything else that came with it. “The hardest part was the administrative duties and things you had to do outside of teaching,” she said. “The committees you needed to serve on, the things outside of the classroom required of teachers. That was tiring. I did a lot of outside stuff.”
White said the hardest part of her job is dealing with the parents. “Either they don’t care enough or they care too much,” she said. “Just let our kindergartners be kindergartners. I have to remind parents, and myself sometimes, that it isn’t the best to keep pushing our kindergartners to be first graders just yet.”
Deshazer said it is hard for her when there is a disconnect between what is going at home and what is going on at school. “I think the hardest part for me is seeing that not all parents have their child’s education as a top priority, and knowing that means I have to work twice as hard to help these children succeed.”
These brave women love their job, but they do recognize it is not easy and why it can be scary for people.
“I just think it’s a profession that you have to have a certain personality for,” Smith said. “Not everybody’s cut out for it. It takes a lot of patience and understanding.”