My youngest is now in kindergarten and I am finally able to volunteer in the classroom. I am amazed how the teacher commands the room. Here is what I heard, and learned, while volunteering in my son’s kindergarten classroom:
- “But pink is my favorite!” The kids have opinions about everything they want. They want a certain color paper. They want to sit on a certain letter circle because it’s their favorite letter or it is the first letter of their name. The teacher simply says, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” I wish I could get away with enforcing that in my house without sibling spats between my three boys, and she has twenty of them. Somehow I know it would never work for me as it does for her as her words settle the dispute quick. I watch her in amazement.
- “But I don’t have to go to the bathroom!” (ie. it’s not that bad yet). This one is a classic scenario from my kindergartner who always has to finish one more thing or add one more block on the obstacle course he is making before he makes himself rush to the bathroom. And I see others in the classroom doing the same thing, so at least mine isn’t the only one. The teacher lets them handle this on their own, and even though my son has accidents waiting too long at home, he hasn’t had one yet all year long at school, and it is now March.
- “I can’t do it!” The teacher will ask, “Well, did you ask a friend for help?” Usually the answer is no. But when the kids do ask each other for help, they suddenly have four table-mates willing to help them sound out the word or read the sentence. At this age, they really like to help each other out so the solution is the one in need should ask rather than whine and they will get help. Again, mine is guilty.
- “But, I didn’t get one!”—so they pout or cry. I witnessed both types of offenders, one was a pouter and one was a crier. Mine was the crier because he didn’t get a paper when they were passed out and all the other kids were almost done and he never even got one. The pouter did ask, but then pouted when the solution took too long. The teacher told them to “try to solve your own problems.” And she has it figured out because they do follow her advice, at least most of the time.
- “He broke the pencil!” This one is the destroyer. He (or she) is destructive and bites erasers off pencils, makes the bite marks on the communal table pencils, and always breaks the pencil lead. The teacher must intervene on this one and simply asks the culprit to “please stop destroying.” And with the repertoire she has built, just asking nicely makes him stop for now at least.
- “But I didn’t put my glove on the ground, it fell.” So therefore it’s not his responsibility since he didn’t make it fall, so he leaves it on the floor. Just like at my own house, my boys think it’s not their responsibility if they didn’t make it happen. How about we all just clean up, even the accidents. As the teacher says, “help the room and this helps us all.”
- “I was first!” This one is a classic kid issue, but kindergarteners are so eager, it’s so hard for them to wait. They just charge right in and want to be the first one to get their headband stapled. “How many hands do I have?” she asks. “Two,” the kids say. Settled and they form a line.
- “I want to do it!” They all want the job. The one to take the lunch bag cart down to the lunchroom. The one to turn out the lights today. So many will try and do the task even if the teacher asks just one particular child only. The teacher has her jobs board to help with disagreements on whose turn it is so there aren’t arguments. Though some still complain, they all understand the jobs board when she reminds them whose turn it really is today.
- “But I’m not done yet!” There is always a straggler, the last to finish. “Don’t take so long to think about it, it’s OK to make mistakes,” I hear her say. Teacher says, “If you aren’t done with it yet, just take it home for homework.” Problem solved.
I leave the classroom thinking this all works for her, the whole classroom order thing because she is who she is and she’s done this many years. She is the master kindergarten teacher, and I pay homage to her.