My daughter, Karen, told me to write something cheerful or she’s going to stop reading my blog. I think I’m always cheerful…or at least positive. But that may be a matter of opinion. Anyway, tonight I’m going to tell you why I teach kindergarten.
It takes a special person to teach kindergarten. I think the layman’s term for it is insane. Kindergartners are dirty, whiny, annoying, mischievous, loud, disruptive, untrained, uncivilized little animals. They wipe snot on their sleeves, lick their shoes, and eat out of each other’s plates. They tease, torment, and tattle. “He’s touching my backpack!” “She talked in the bathroom!” They complain about everything from the temperature of the room to the color of their pencil eraser. “That’s not the way my preschool teacher did it!” “Are we having crackers again?” “You played that song yesterday!” They hit, punch, kick, and pull hair, but they always say, “I didn’t do it.” They scream, cry, whistle, hum, and make clucking noises…usually in the middle of a math lesson.
Kindergartners are also sweet, funny, curious, smart, creative, resilient, kind, enthusiastic, sociable little angels. They forgive you when you make mistakes, and love you with their heart and soul. They give you hugs and compliments. “I like your dress.” “Your hair looks pretty like that.” “You’re the best teacher in the world.” They try to please you even if you ask the impossible. “I can’t write my name, but I can make a T!” They make friends with each other and somehow know who needs to be protected. They laugh with you and they make you laugh even when you’re down. They make astonishing progress in reading skills and when one suddenly blurts out “HOT, that word says h-o-t, HOT!” it makes your heart skip a beat.
Kindergartners know a lot more about us that we think. They watch us and listen to us when we least expect it. I always cringe the first time I hear one of my students do a perfect imitation of me explaining a lesson or a rule. And the first time they tell another student, “You know Mrs. Maurer said…”, it’s an instant reminder of my responsibility as a role model. Kindergartners have to have “people smarts”. They have to learn a lot about so many people in a very short time! We caution them about “talking to strangers”, yet they have classmates, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, and a dozen other people to get acquainted with almost instantly. In most cases they have very little information to base their relationships upon. What I’ve found out about kindergartners is that they have a keen intuition about people. If one of my students doesn’t like someone, chances are I won’t either.
Sometimes they are so wise that it amazes you. I told my students that my mother is dead. One girl looked me calmly in the eyes and said, “You don’t need her. You’re a big girl.” That’s a kindergartner’s equivalent of “look, this is how the world works”. Another said, “So she’s watching you from heaven…with my grandma.” One day a student said, “I don’t have a daddy anymore.” Another piped up quickly, “Of course you do! Jesus is your daddy all the time!” How can you argue with that kind of logic?”
Kindergartners never forget…at least not anything you’ve ever promised to do for them. My students know I try to keep my promises, but sometimes things get overlooked. The second time I forgot to buy playdough one of my girls said, “Didn’t you read your WalMart list?” When I bought a new doll bed for our play area I overheard one girl tell another, “I’m glad I told her we needed one!”
I teach in a circus town so my conversations with students are sometimes a little “different”. I remember a few years ago when we were talking about occupations. One little boy said “My mom hangs by her teeth.” I guess I looked perplexed because he went on to explain that his mom is an acrobat. Now that’s one you don’t hear every day!
I could talk about my kids all day, but I guess I teach kindergarten because nothing else could bring me such a daily blessing. I teach kindergartners because they remind me to slow down and look for caterpillars. They remind me to enjoy chocolate. They remind me to take time for hugs and compliments. They remind me to laugh and love. Life is too short for anything less.