Interview with Michelle Griffo, California Kindergarten Teacher
We recently had the opportunity to interview Michelle Griffo, a kindergarten teacher born and raised in southern California. Michelle attended Vanguard University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, as well as a multiple subjects teaching credential and master’s degree in education. Michelle has been teaching for six years. During our interview, we discussed how a college trip abroad motivated Michelle to become a teacher, the ways in which she incorporates technology into her classroom, and how blogging has changed the way she teaches and plans her lessons.
Was there a particular person or experience that motivated you to become an education professional?
I was originally a business major in college, but during my junior year, I went on a service project to China for three weeks. There, we learned about the culture and taught English. While we were in China, I realized where all of my strengths lied…in teaching! That trip was monumental for me, and I knew the road ahead would include getting my teaching credential.
What characteristics of kindergarten students do you appreciate the most?
Kindergarten students are like sponges. They soak up everything they hear and see and are able to learn at such a quick pace. It amazes me that the students enter not knowing their letters, and leave knowing the basics of reading. I don’t know any other grade level that you see that much growth in one year. And of course, the questions they come up with are so entertaining!
What aspects of your job do you find to be the most challenging or stressful?
The most challenging part of my job is teaching the children how to behave in a classroom while also teaching them curriculum. For some of the students, this is their first experience in school. This is the first time they have had to take turns speaking, listening, and even following directions with multiple steps. I am not only laying the foundation of academics, but laying the foundation of how the culture of school works.
Can you share any techniques that you use to create a successful work and life balance?
I wish I had a better answer for this one! I have not learned how to balance all of the areas of my life successfully yet. Teaching is a difficult career because there is always more that you could be working on and things you could be preparing for, especially in kindergarten. I would suggest making a daily ‘to do list.’ Once you have completed those tasks for the day, then you can leave work knowing that you don’t have to think about your tasks until you return the next day. As in any profession, you need to be able to have time for yourself, without thinking about work.
What online tools have you found to be the most helpful for managing a classroom?
I entered the world of blogging within the last eight months, and doing so has completely changed me as a person and as an educator! If you can successfully manage your classroom (the students and procedures) then your life will be much easier and the classroom with run much more smoothly.
I have gotten so many ideas from other teachers’ blogs. Getting a master’s degree in education was a great accomplishment because I learned a lot about research and the theory of education. But, in order to find detailed, hands-on examples of what does and does not work in a classroom, I read other teachers’ blogs.
On my blog, Apples and ABC’s, I try to share ideas that do and don’t work, as far as classroom management is concerned. A great feature of blogs is that there is a comment section at the end of each post where readers can comment and interact with the blogger. This allows for questions, input, and shared ideas. My classroom management has greatly improved due to blogging and reading blogs.
How do you use technology as a tool for teaching kindergarteners?
I am constantly using technology while I am teaching my students. For example, if I am teaching a unit about spiders, I will read a book about spiders, feature spider photos that I found on the Internet, show spider videos on YouTube, possibly sing a spider-themed song that I found online, and then write about them.
My favorite piece of technology that I have in the classroom is an ELMO document camera. This is the newest version of an overhead projector where you can place anything under the document camera and it will project on the screen. The options are endless of how you can use this piece of technology.
What words of wisdom do you have for others considering a career as a kindergarten teacher or early childhood education professional?
Spend some time observing in a kindergarten classroom. Try to get exposure to what a classroom environment is like and see what age of students would be best suited for your personality type. If you feel overwhelmed, know that that is perfectly natural. While in college, it seems as though it will take forever to get your credential and your own classroom, but once you do, it will be worth all of your hard work!
We thank Michelle for taking the time to share her advice for becoming a kindergarten teacher and incorporating technology into the classroom. Check out Michelle’s blog, Apples and ABC’s, for more great teaching insights and ideas for the kindergarten classroom.
Learn about how to become a teacher in California.