Friday, August 29, 2008

A Word about Kindergarten.

I loved teaching kindergarten. I loved it.

I loved my third graders, too, and I am very confident that I would love to teach those other two grades in between. I am a "lower primary" girl... bring on the bulletin boards, the phonics, the handwriting, Sparkle with the spelling words, and Around the World with math facts.

I love it. Some days, I really miss it. Especially this time of year, when I know just what I would do in my classroom to get us on the right foot, to create our environment, and to start the school year strong. Especially with the kindergartners, these first few weeks set a very crucial pattern that lays the groundwork for the next nine months. And I loved it.

So.... it bothers me tremendously when people (educators and otherwise) comment or behave as though kindergarten is glorified daycare.

I've heard these delightful and affirming comments:

"Oh, I could never teach kindergarten. I think I'd be like, 'tie your own

"Don't you get sick of wiping noses??"

"No, thanks. I like to really teach... leave the babysitting to their

"Kindergarten?? They're not even real people yet."

"Oh, too little. They can't really think yet."

Comments like these? Not my favorite. Here's what I want to say, in response:

You're probably right. If you think you would hate it, you probably would. It's very, very demanding. It is a good three months before they can truly work independently, so that means it's a good three months before I get to sit down at my desk while they work at theirs.

There is very little nose wiping, some shoe tying, but lots of hand holding. And that's an honored privilege, because I'm the new person their parents have entrusted with this job of loving this child.

There is a LOT of truth in the statement, "Everything I need to know, I learned in kindergarten." It's a big year, and there is immeasurable, exponential growth from the first day to the last. I dare say there is more academic growth in that year than any other, but I may be biased. I will allow for that possibility, but I would also be curious to know if it can be measured and compared. It's truly a year of growth every single day.

The most important role of a kindergarten teacher is to give these children a solid start. Kindergarten is the new first grade; while this first year was once about playing and singing, it's now all about learning to read: a book, a clock, a calendar. It's about teaching children to love this place, to make them want to come back, tomorrow and next year.

Another significant piece of the kindergarten pie chart is the parents. While kindergarten teachers are educating children, they are also teaching the parents. It is that teacher's job to help parents make this transition into school, to establish the relationship between the school and the parent, to build confidence and trust in the teacher and the system of education at large. It's a big task. And the relationships with all those moms and dads are just as important as the ones with their children; we are all partners in the task of teaching each child to read.

And to the teachers of older grades:

On that first day of school, did your students know how to stand in a line? Did they raise their hands before they shouted answers? Could they write their names at the top of the paper? Could they travel quietly in the hallway?

They learned that in kindergarten. You're welcome.

You are right: kindergarten is not for everyone. But neither is seventh grade algebra. I couldn't do it. I have long said it's really a good thing that God made every teacher with a desired grade and subject to teach, and it's great that we don't all like the same one. Because that would leave lots of us without jobs or terribly disappointed with the one we have.

Teachers are all working together, striving toward the same goal, building on the skills the last teacher taught. In their year with me, I'm trying to get them ready for their year with you. I will respect what you do; please respect what I do, too.

That's what I want to say. But instead, I just say, "Oh, I really love it."
I love the kindergartners. And I will belong to them again someday.


my3boys said...

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Tricia is the BEST kindergarten teacher EVER!

Mellifluous said...

So, before I knew the name of Trina's Kindergarten teacher, I dreamed it was you. And I felt that was God's way of saying it would all be ok.

And "they're not even real people yet" Are you KIDDING? They have more personality than a lot of adults I know.

I may not be made to teach Kindergarten, but as I watched the kids in Trina's class on Friday, I knew what an important foundation was being laid.

Jeni said... make me miss teaching kindergarten. I love the little guys!!

Kathryn said...

While I completely agree that teachers really are cut out for certain grades, I refuse anything lower than 4th, I have learned the school games have no grade-I had 7th graders that LOVED sparkle-and those were the rough inner city kids too!