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Voyageur's Best Features of 2006

Teaching little ones

Teaching little ones
Teaching kindergarten is not for everyone—those that do it are quite amazing
by John Grones  |  October 3, 2006

I don’t know what I was thinking. Missy Lind at Cromwell School called me to substitute teach in the kindergarten room this past week and I agreed, under one condition… “If you can’t find anyone else.”

As I suspected—there were no other takers.

After one day in the kindergarten room, I came to one conclusion: teachers that work with little people should be paid double. Hopefully, Cromwell superintendant Herb Helinski reads this, because I’m expecting my substitute check to be doubled as well.

This was one experience I never thought I would agree to, and now I know why a movie like Kindergarten Cop would be so popular.

The day started with a search for name tags for Marcus and Elizabeth. That’s right, each kid has a name tag with their lunch number on it. Thank goodness for that, or I would have had to try and remember names. One tag we found on a shelf. The other was in Marcus’s backpack.

Then there was the challenge of pinning them on. It’s been a while since I’ve had youngsters. My youngest just went off to college. I am obviously out of practice. I did manage to get the name tags on, but I later noticed one was on backwards.

Then came more requests. I was asked to tie a bow for Morgan, put shoes on Clarice, and get Katie to breakfast. All this, and I hadn’t even started teaching yet.

Oh, and then I was asked to put Lego Man’s arm back on.

When it was finally time to start, I had a brief discussion with the two TOP DOGS for the day— Cameron and Landen. TOP DOGS are given leadership responsibilities throughout the day. Their first responsiblities included a Good Morning to each student, an update of the calendar, a close look at the weather and a school day count down. Unfortunately, the TOP DOGS  had a conflict. They both wanted to lead the same activity.

Leave it to the girls to step in and work out a compromise. I stepped back and let them solve the problem.

However, the two boys wouldn’t budge.

After a few negotiations with their teacher, a compromise was finally reached, and the class got down to business. We did some counting, we recited color words, we learned syllables and sang the days of the week song.

Then, right in the middle of reading Moo Moo Brown Cow, Isaac informed me he had a sliver in his finger.

Once the sliver was removed and I was able to get the class back on task, things moved along quite nicely.  I think the kids were finally engaged in learning. When we finished the reading portion of the day, it was on to music and movement. The lesson plan called for me to teach the students “Farmer in the Dell.”

One problem, I don’t know “Farmer in the Dell.”

Fortunately, Morgan knew how the activity went. Once she finished explaining how to sing the song and what we were supposed to do, another conflict arose. It turned out there are several versions of the song.

The biggest concern was over who the child picks—a dog or a doctor.

I had no idea.

We settled on the dog, despite Isaac’s disappointment and wouldn’t you know it—he got picked as the dog.

The song progressed and before I knew it, mouse picked the cheese—me. And that’s when I found out the cheese stands alone and is later mobbed by the group. The song concludes with, “Everybody eats the cheese.”

From that point on, the rest of the day is a blur. I do recall teaching a sorting activity before splitting the class into groups for activity stations. This seemed to be a favorite portion of the day for many of the children.

It was then I decided to sit down at my desk for a brief rest, and that’s when it happened. The one thing that every teacher of little ones dreads—“I had an accident,” he said.

There he was, standing at my desk with the, “I don’t know how to tell you this,” look and a tear streaming down his cheek.

Fortunately, Missy was still in the office. I gave a great sigh of relief when I found out there was a plan in place to handle such emergencies. It obviously involves the office staff. Maybe Missy should get a raise as well.

Nevertheless, by the time I finished getting the little guy to the office, the stations were over. My next project was to clean up all the sand that spilled out of the sandbox. Thanks to help from Zayde, it didn’t take very long.

After lunch and recess, the first activity back in the classroom was quiet time. How can anybody forget about this daily kindergarten tradition. Everyone grabbed a mat. We turned out the lights, and it was quiet time.

Aahhh! Finally a moment to rest . . . or so I thought.

That so-called “nap time,” scheduled for 30 minutes, was just as busy as the rest of the day. Before I could collect my thoughts, I had 25 more questions to answer and a few tattles to deal with. Then it seemed like everyone had to go the bathroom at nap time.

Nobody was tired.

I did manage to get a rest when the kids went to Physical Education and Music. The rest was needed because I would later discover that my greatest challenge lay before me: making sure  the children were delivered to their parents or another adult. Fortunately, there was a list that explained which child went on what bus and which children go to the after school program.

One small problem: Clarice informed me that she was supposed to go to the after school program, and that was not on the list. After a couple of phone calls, I eventually met up with one of the after-school coordinators while I was directing kids on the appropriate bus. She wasn’t quite sure about Clarice either, but she offered to take care of the situation.

As I learned the next day, Clarice was brought to the bus.

For the most part, teaching kindergarten can be quite rewarding, and one day isn’t all that bad. The class I taught has just 13 students. I can’t imagine working with 25 little ones.

Looking back on the whole experience, all I can say is kindergarten teachers deserve double the pay.

And by the way, I don’t know how many shoes the average kindergarten teacher has to tie during the day, but I had to tie five.

This article first appeared in the October 3 issue of the Voyageur Press.