Shawn Davis is shown with a few of his students. Photos by Jo Mathis.
Shawn Davis grew up in Ann Arbor and was a student at Eberwhite, Slauson, and Pioneer. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University and his master’s degree at Marygrove College.
A year after graduating from Pioneer High School, Davis became a paraprofessional with AAPS, working in a variety of schools, including the Preschool and Family Center and Lawton Elementary.
He has been a kindergarten teacher at Carpenter for eight years.
Davis lives in Ann Arbor, “surrounded by my many wonderful family members and friends.”
He talked with Jo Mathis of the AAPS District News about his work.
When did you realize you wanted to teach? I guess it’s in the blood. I come from a family of teachers, so it was only natural that I became one.
What made you decide to teach kindergarten? Well, kindergarten was my first teaching job at Lawton and I truly never thought that I would teach this grade. After the first year was complete, I knew that this was the grade I was made for.
Male kindergarten teachers are obviously not common. What reactions do you get from people when you tell them what you do for a living? I get a wide variety of reactions that actually make me laugh. I get the blank stare, the “You have to be kidding me.” the “No really, what grade do you actually teach?” or the “ I’ve never met a male kindergarten teacher before.” There hasn’t been anything negative and I don’t take it personally. After a few seconds they realize that their child is in a safe learning environment and we wind up having a wonderful school year.
What’s the funniest thing one of your students said this week? This is probably the hardest question to answer. My students say funny things all the time and it’s impossible to remember everything. I think now is the time to record the funny things and make a coffee table book of the things students say for us teachers to enjoy.
Describe an average workday. My workday begins at 5 in the morning. After taking my kids to school, I get to Carpenter around 7:30 and I will end up leaving Carpenter around 6 pm. Schoolwork doesn’t stop there. I will finish my workday at home around 9:30 pm when it’s all said and done.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? The most important thing I have learned about teaching are the connections you make with the community you represent. Making the connections with students, parents, colleagues, and the surrounding community is critical to making the school really move. I feel grateful to be at Carpenter because of the way we all have come together to make our school a special place. I work with the best colleagues around, and the connections I have made with them makes my job a lot easier.
The most important thing about learning is that it doesn’t stop when you become a teacher. Yes, we teach others so that they will learn, but I am constantly learning new things from my students and my colleagues. It’s important for me to get new ideas from my colleagues and pass those ideas on so others can learn from me.
Which apps and websites would you recommend to other teachers? Here are a few that I would recommend:
How do you stay organized? I try to keep my work area as clean as possible. My student’s work is stored in portfolios and in binders. I have a schedule book that I follow and keep up to date. Unfortunately, my desk is another matter that needs immediate attention!
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching is getting to know my students at the beginning of the school year and watching how much they grow and learn when the year is done. I always feel as though I needed to do more or I didn’t teach them enough. When I see them at the end of the year explaining and demonstrating everything they learned, I feel great.
What was your own experience like in kindergarten? My kindergarten experience at Eberwhite was a great one. My teacher, Mrs. Betty Doman, was kind and fun to be around. It was a lot different back then and more socially geared. I just remember playing, singing songs, and doing a lot of arts and crafts.
Who was your favorite teacher, and why? My favorite teacher was actually Mrs. Ruth Williams who used to be the principal at Lawton. Ruth was awesome to work with and she always looked out for me while I was a paraprofessional and a student in college. She would give me the best advice about the teaching profession and that advice I still hold dearly to this day. I still can’t thank her enough for all that she has done for me.
What has surprised you most about the profession? I have been surprised by negative stereotypes that have been placed on our profession. The negativity has really gotten out of hand at times and it can be a burden on us to a degree. The positive outcome of all of this is that we have become closer to one another as colleagues and work harder together during tough times.
Who inspires you, and why? My students actually inspire me to be a better teacher. I want to make sure that their first experience with Carpenter is a great one and also one that is filled with inspired learning. I want to be great at my profession and who better to inspire me to be so than my students?
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? The work is hard—but most rewarding—and it takes a long time to master this craft. We put a lot of time and effort to ensure our students get the best quality education around. The extra time after school, at home, and during the weekends is only the start of it. Teaching is only one of many jobs that we do during the school day. To be able to manage those jobs, teach students, work side by side with parents, and be a face in the community, is something that should be applauded.
If you could change one thing about public education, what would it be? I would like the politicians to take the time out of their schedule and do our job for a couple of days. They claim to know it all about education, but I don’t see anyone coming down to my school to see what an average school day looks like. I honestly don’t think at times they know what’s best for our children and us. Maybe if they walked a mile in our shoes, they would get a better understanding. Then working with us they can create better education policies that will benefit all.
What would you tell a college student considering becoming a teacher? I would tell them to be prepared for anything. Everyday is not the same and different scenarios are thrown at you constantly. Get to know your students and where they come from. Get to know the parents and talk to them whenever possible. Let them see that you are passionate about your profession and that their child is very special to you. You also have to be a team player and be able to accept constructive criticism. Please don’t be afraid to fail at times. That’s how we get better. Finally, teaching is a hard profession. Please don’t take it lightly and think you can just jump right in and be a master teacher. It takes time, effort, and dedication to master this craft. Realize that you hold the keys for a better tomorrow.
In addition to teaching your classes, what else do you contribute to your school community? I like to go to after school events that are held around Carpenter, and I also like to attend some events that my students may have during the weekend. It’s one way to get to know them better and to also let them know that Mr. Davis doesn’t live and sleep at Carpenter.
What do you like to do when you’re not working? I like to read and watch the original Star Wars trilogy over and over again.
Where do you picture yourself in five years? Hopefully at Carpenter still teaching kindergarten.