At this point in my career, I have literally taught every grade level from Kindergarten to Grade 12. Occasionally someone will ask what the hardest level is to teach. It makes me think of one mom’s phrase, “There’s only one thing pukier than a grade nine boy, and that’s a grade nine girl.” She had one of each, and they weren’t puky at all. They were just being fifteen lol. And to be perfectly honest, grade nine was one of my favorite ages to teach – I love my grade sevens now but there are days that I miss that mid-teen quirkiness!
No, the teachers that are working the hardest are most definitely in Kindergarten.
From personal experience in both, I can attest to this fact:
Five year olds are hands-down harder than History 30.
My teaching foray into Kindergarten was an hour of music every day. An hour. Sixty loooooong minutes. Of music! I didn’t have children of my own at that point, and I had trained in the high school stream, so I was ill-prepared for the bedlam a room full of small humans can create. Plus, although I can sing and play instruments, teaching Kindergarten isn’t really about the subject. It’s crying. And running. And stories. So many stories. And tattling. And questions. Even more questions. And soooooo much randomness. Unpredictability at its finest.
Like I said, Kindergarten teachers work hard.
I was thinking about this yesterday at the football game, when I was quasi-adopted by a little guy sitting beside me.
His name is Hayden.
He was just having a really tough time staying focused on the game. I’ll be honest, sometimes I do too! So I watched as he tried to get comfortable on the bleachers, argued with his big sister about sharing her blanket, and got frustrated that he was getting dry grass pieces on his clothes. Like I said, he was having a tough time.
Our youngest niece is ten, so it’s been a while since I’ve really been around someone so small. But I dusted off my best distraction skills and made a new friend, and it wasn’t long till he had climbed on my lap. We watched several quarters that way.
I’m sure some of you will find it only slightly ironic that I explained the game of football to another person, but we did: counting how many tries the team had left by looking at the stick marker, watching for any orange flags thrown to the ground by the referees, waiting for the kicker to come out and see how far the ball went through the uprights. And always, always looking for number 38 - even if he wasn’t sure what the number 38 looked like. It didn’t matter. He was there to see his cousin Cody and cheer for the Rebels!
It left me feeling kind of nostalgic and more than just a little bit wistful.
At the end, his mom thanked me for entertaining him and was apologetic that he couldn’t sit still. I told her that that’s what four year olds should do, and that I’d be more worried about a four year old that sat still and didn’t want to run around. Am I advocating for kids running wild in restaurants? Not at all. But I’ve heard parents say they never take their kids out because they can’t behave. We didn’t go out much when our kids were little, but when we did, they came too. How else would they learn the accepted norms and manners that society expects of us all, adults included, except by doing it?
It’s the same way we learn most things in life. I learned how to bake on my own but with mom beside me until I got it. When I wanted to knit, mom’s hands were on the needles with mine, guiding the yarn in complicated loops, until I could see it. Learning to drive? Okay, that was dad sometimes, but mom was more patient as we rolled along prairie trails between fields. Whether we call it hands-on or authentic learning, there’s one thing it doesn’t involve….being a passive learner.
“Maybe you’re thinking to yourself that the boring lectures you sat through certainly didn’t engage you in using anything, and you turned out just fine. But times change, technologies change, and most importantly, knowledge changes about how to teach kids so that they can apply what they know to real life situations.” Maybe we don’t do it to Kindergarteners. But there are rows and desks and worksheets and far too much sitting that still happens in school. And without sounding melodramatic, it kinda hurts my heart.
This past week, Ms. Hill and I combined our classes for ‘Take Me Outside’ day. The grade 11 Outdoor Ed class planned a scientific scavenger hunt for my 7s and then we finished by playing a giant game of Capture the Flag. It was fantastic.
It also was a good reminder that our students are active learners, and even if we can’t physically be outside every class, not to take the ‘active’ out of the learning.
Too many thoughts are going through my head tonight and I just can’t quite get them to connect, so I’ll end with two things: if you have anyone young enough to still sit on your lap, don’t be in a hurry to let them go. And from the poster that Hayden’s sister made to cheer on cousin Cody, “Believe, be brave, be strong, play football!”
Everyone is welcome.
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