Kindergarten? Kindergarten. Kindergarten! If you had asked me a year ago the grade level I’d be least likely to teach, that was the answer. But here I am: In a kindergarten classroom — and loving it.
It seemed kindergarten students were so needy. “Mr. Walker, can you tie my shoe?” I spend lunchtime tearing open packages, unscrewing thermos tops, mopping up spills, telling children to eat. They also live to tattle — usually complaining as a third-party intervener (“Jane told Johnny he was stupid.”). They just seemed so, for lack of a better word, helpless.
Since my building sub duties put me in classrooms from K through 12, I was provided with a healthy dose of students at all levels (including my daughter’s 5th grade activities). The more I tried to work with the older students, the more frustrated I became. Older students — certainly not all of them, of course — were more likely to be disrespectful and failed to recognize (or appreciate) the reason you were there was to teach, to help broaden their minds and prepare them for life after school.
Pretty idealistic, I guess. Still, there were times when I felt I broke through, usually with the mini-lessons I devised to complement subject material. Students were interested in what I was talking about, and related it to their own lives. These were golden moments, but there were far too few of them.
There were days when stepping into a classroom was plunging into an icy pool of chaos. It was loud. Students socialized and roamed the room. I could settle them, but I needed better material to work with than I found waiting for me on the desk.
As begin my fourth week in a kindergarten classroom, I’m actually excited about going to school. Sure, it’s work. There are frustrating moments. Some of the students leave me shaking my head and wondering what could possibly motivate them to engage in certain behaviors.
One thing s for sure: It’s an age of exploration. They are discovering other people, adults and their peers. They are in a new and exciting environment. There’s never been anything like this, and it can be overwhelming. The idea of listening and being told what to do by adults other than their parents can be a steep learning curve.
There are other forms of exploration — often the left nostril and the right nostril.
It doesn’t appear and deep friendships develop. The students play with each other every day n different combination. This naivety is beautiful. No one is judged by physical appearances, mental acumen or family background. It’s so pure. The children are so — they are sweet children, who adore you, hug you, feel safe with you, cry when they feel they need to.
My goal is to teach these students what they need to enter First Grade, certainly. We’re spending a lot of time right now on walking in line. It’s much, much more challenging than people think it should be. Walking in a line, behind the person in front of them, not talking, not jumping around outside of the line, not turned around facing the wrong way, stalling the line, not hitting or pushing each other, not swinging around lunchboxes …
It’s more than walking n a straight line. It’s learning there are times when it is important to listen and follow set rules that never change; it becomes the expectation. They will be expected to meet an increasing number of these expectations, and they need to be prepared for it.
One of the best aspects of my becoming rooter in a Kindergarten classroom is that my daughter no longer has to worry about me popping up in her classroom as the teacher. We never had any problems, of course, but it’s still a difficult situation for her. We still pass in the hall and I’m more likely than not to get the cold shoulder. I don’t take it personally.
You could even say that my ending up in Kindergarten is a form of destiny.
I never went to Kindergarten. In those ancient days, it wasn’t the expectation (or the law). My first day in school, in a classroom, was my first day of First Grade.
So here I am.