I think, but I've been forcefully reminded after a scant three weeks of substituting, that I already knew that I was never cut out to be a primary school teacher. I thought I knew that long ago, but over the years various people have tried to tell me that I'd be good at teaching younger students. And I've given it a go, many times - in practicum for grad school (kindergarten), in vacation Bible school (first and second grade), in church (infant and toddler nursery), and more recently in 4th and 5th grade classrooms as a substitute. And it's official. I STILL DO NOT LIKE TEACHING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGE KIDS IN A CLASSROOM. So there.
I do enjoy working with older students, though. I've been asked to substitute for a couple months for an 8th grade special ed teacher who's going on maternity leave. I said yes (after spending a day with the students). Sure, they're moody, hormonal, awkward, rowdy and flaky, often with 'tude to spare. They're also interesting, challenging, smart and funny. Taken as a whole, I deal much better with the older students in smaller groups/for shorter periods of time. And, let's face it, no matter how difficult they're being for me, from 7th grade onward they change classes every 41 minutes or so. I can handle almost any teaching issue for 41 minutes - I think. At least, I can handle it more easily than I can deal with 25 squirrely fifth graders by myself for a whole day, every day. To each their own specialty, and more power to teachers who CAN do it as a career, like my awesome aunt and uncle, who taught K-2 and 4th-5th for decades, and did it really well.
I've had quite a few people over the years say things to me like, "You must be so patient to work with kids with special needs." Or, "It takes a special person to work with those students." Frankly, it takes a particular kind of person to do ANY job. I can't imagine myself doing jobs that others would find satisfying and stimulating (software engineer, or stock broker, or mechanic, or store manager, for example). Thank God I can do what I do, and thank God for all those people who do what I could never do. We'll balance each other out, and I'm grateful for their gifts and talents. (And I'll leave for another post my frustration in dealing with people who think I'm some kind of saint for raising a child with an autism spectrum disorder, or for teaching kids with special needs. One part of my life I had no choice over - my children are gifts, and I do my best with the treasure I've been given in them, no matter what abilities they have or challenges they face. The other part of my life, my teaching career, I chose with my eyes wide open and do willingly, so I don't deserve pity or a pedestal.)