The joy of teaching

September 2017

We all have a mental image of the ideal kindergarten teacher: a Mary Poppins look alike whose boundless energy and unending reserves of patience and good will outshine even those of Mother Teresa. A woman with children pulling at her skirt hem, looking up into her lovely, wondrous countenance, begging for attention. A woman who we would trust to teach and nurture our very own children.

The only problem with this image is the fact that we rarely, if ever, portray this ideal kindergarten teacher as a man.

Aaron LalDin, a teacher with the Lakehead Public School Board, understands people’s surprise when he tells them that he’s been a kindergarten teacher for over six years now.

He says the reactions usually vary from “Oh, really? Wow!” to “Awe, that’s cute.” Once people get over the initial shock they are usually very positive. “I think that many individuals like the fact that there is a male presence in the classroom in the early years. It’s not something that is very common.”

When asked if there have been any challenges in being a male teacher in an area of education usually dominated by women, LalDin is quite optimistic. “Not really,” he says, pointing to the fact that over the years the board has started to see an increase in the number of male teachers entering the elementary level. He also notes that although most elementary schools have more women in the primary classrooms he’s fortunate to work with a great team at his school, where the ratio of male to female staff is almost equal.

LalDin discovered his passion for teaching kindergarten children when he received his black belt in Tae Kwan Do and began to instruct adults and children in the martial art. Teaching children as young as five years of age, he developed patience and learned the importance of providing structure and routine in his classes. He also discovered the joy of teaching and helping others to achieve their own goals.

LalDin believes that it was his Tae Kwan Do instructor, Grand Master Soengkono, who influenced the way that he teaches today. “Grand Master Soengkono spent countless hours emphasizing the importance of character education to his students which, now as a teacher, I try to instill in my students each and everyday.” And of course, there are challenges.

“At times, it can be mentally and physically exhausting,” LalDin says. “Children at this age tend to need more one on one support in learning to problem-solve and self-regulate. They need to be supported through emotional ups and downs and sometimes this can be overwhelming when there are so many needs to address all at once.” According to LalDin the dynamics of emotional maturity go hand in hand with intellectual ability. Each class has its share of reluctant learners and as such a teacher must think of ways to engage all students, eager and not-so-eager.

But with the challenges come the rewards.

LalDin’s greatest pleasure is seeing the emotional and academic development of each child as they progress from September to June. “It reassures me that my program is meeting the needs of each and every one of my students to the best of my ability.” And, of course, there are other perks. The joy of seeing children taking delight in such simple things as being able to wear their pajamas to school on pajama day or the laughter that fills the room when a humorous story is shared: “Can we read it again? Please, Mr. LalDin, please!”

LalDin has always taken his role as an educator seriously, but now that he has become a father, he has a personal understanding of the importance of providing a loving environment for his daughter.

“I feel that having a nurturing and safe environment for my students is something that I implement in my classroom and now in my own home. The importance of reading is something that I do with my daughter each and every night, as well as singing songs, which we know helps with child development.”

LalDin doesn’t believe he is unique in taking on a more active role in his daughter’s development. “Many of my friends who are now fathers are becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives. They’re out walking with them, giving their wives a bit of time to rest, videotaping their children, reading to them, playing with them, and spending more and more time with them. There has been a shift in the role of the father in our generation and it’s a good thing.”
And perhaps with this shift we’ll see more and more men enrolling in primary education courses and taking on the challenging role as kindergarten teachers.

“Hopefully over time, we’ll start to see more males take on this role,” LalDin says. “It’s a challenging job but at the end of the day there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you’ve had a part in helping a child develop emotionally or intellectually. I love my job, and it’s an honour to be given such an important responsibility.”

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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