I’m friends with lots of kindergarten teachers. Skye is one of them; Mr. A is another one; and there are a bunch more. Thank goodness, because I am joining their ranks (sort of), rotating through the French immersion kinder classes to do math, and having one class all to myself for most of every other Friday. Let me tell you, it is a huge relief to know people whose brains I can pick.
Kindergarten is a whole new world. Other than a tiny piece of kinder planning five years ago (in which I learned of the extreme randomness of small children’s thought processes), this is my first foray into the beginner stratum of public school. And when I say beginner, I mean the kids (and sometimes the parents)… not the teachers. Teaching kindergarten is not for the faint of heart – or the weak of stomach, or the feeble of feet, or the poor of energy. Kindergarten teachers have my everlasting respect.
Friday was my first day this year teaching full-on all day long – two solid (100-minute) blocks of kindergarten, lunch yard duty, then two core French classes. I think it would have been fun, if my head hadn’t been full of congestion and my energy level down in my shoes. As it was, I asked myself (as I have many times over the years) “Why did I have to pick a job this hard?” If teaching is a study in sheer energy output, kindergarten is the ultimate test.
Notwithstanding, I still managed to fall in love with several of the kids – and gained some new appreciation for my junior students (Grades 4-6) who are so self-directed, hilarious in their own right, and whom I also love – for different reasons. I guess that answers my aforementioned question.
Here are some things I’m learning about kindergarten, so far:
- “Can we play now?” (This as soon as they walk in the door.)
- Kindergarteners are cute. You want to kiss their little faces… but you’re not allowed to, in case it is construed as a “no” touch.
- Luckily, they are also affectionate; I’ve received lots of hugs already. When they throw their arms around you, it’s basically impossible not to hug them back.
- They have almost no sense of time or sequence of events. After being there for an hour, half of them think it’s home time; then they can have their snack, and after 25 minutes of recess, they’ve forgotten all about it and think it’s lunch time.
- “When can we play?”
- There are huge discrepancies between the abilities of kindergarten students. Some are almost entirely self-sufficient, and some don’t even know to ask for help putting their shoes on.
- These kids are raw humans. They say whatever they’re thinking, they cry when they feel like it, they hit when they’re mad, they spazz out when the mood strikes them. There’s little to no social filtering or niceties.
- By the same token, they know how to do undiluted joy. Seeing their ginormous grins elicited by the feeling of simply running as fast as they can… it’s fantastic.
- “Is it play time yet?”
- Like most of us humans, they are sheeplike. For instance, if one of them decides something is funny and starts laughing, soon they’re all cackling like little loons.
- Singing is amazingly effective in getting their attention. Mr. A has thoroughly harnessed this power: he has songs for lining up, sitting on the carpet, tidying the toys, washing the hands, etc.
- There is no limit to the amount of silliness they can take in stride. The crazier the faces you make, voices you use, and things you do with your limbs, the better.
- “Now can we play??”
- They learn a LOT from playing, from social interaction to fine and gross motor skills to basic physics. It’s a good thing, too, because playing is what they would do all day long if you let them.
- I’ve been (re)assured that curriculum takes a backseat in kindergarten. I’ve seen for myself how much day-to-day life stuff they still need to learn. Skye helped put it in perspective by telling me what she considers her job’s priority: helping these kids like school and want to come back.
- I have the distinct impression that in a kindergarten classroom, at any given time, chaos is only a hairsbreadth away. So I’m hoping that with practice, as I work my kindergarten muscles (the ones used to keep lids on things), it will get easier.