Last Friday I had my first one-day trip with a kindergarten class.
Spending half a day out on the water with kids that barely
came up to my waist was so much FUN! It was a totally new
experience for me, as most of my teaching experience in the past has always been with older students (middle and high school). They are so full of love, awe, wonder, and haven’t developed attitudes or become aware that they come from wealthy families. They still view the world as a big, wondrous place where adults are to be trusted, other kids are your friends, and everything is new and interesting. Spending the day with these little guys really warmed my heart, and I think that if I were ever to pursue a teaching certificate to teach full time in Alaska, I would probably want to teach the lower grades. As much as I like being able to help students understand actual concepts rather than just reminding them not to eat the crayons, older students can really bring you down. I would rather spend my days helping students develop their first memories of the world than trying to coax their bad habits out of them.
I was especially enchanted by the curiosity of the very young. One girl named Hamy was particularly enthralled by the pants I was wearing, which would flutter in the breeze. She also just couldn’t get enough of being held, tossed, and spun around by the big, white giant I must have seemed to be. I know that 5-year-olds are small to begin with, but these children seemed particularly tiny. It was fun to be, in addition to
teacher, also protector, tour guide of the barge, and coach as they colored, looked at all the beautiful temples we sailed past, and tried to figure out which end of the binoculars to look through. Most of all, it was just heart melting to have a little kid attempt to hug you by wrapping their arms around your waist.
All my teaching training up until this point has been very focused on helping kids understand big concepts in simple ways. All of that was thrown on its head when it came to working with kids who couldn’t spell their own names. Suddenly, you have to re-examine the world from a simpler, brighter, and shorter point of view. I think the kindergarten and early childhood years are really important, as that’s when we learn many things that stick with us for the rest of our lives (hopefully). I know it’s cliche, the “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” thing, but really, didn’t we? My kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Kirby – a wonderful Peruvian woman who spoke with an accent and loved children. I remember learning words in Spanish, that a little was enough and a lot was too much, and that sharing was important, bragging isn’t okay, and that a classmate’s tooth left in a bottle of Coke all night will disappear by morning (and people wonder why I don’t drink soda…). I can only hope that these kids may someday look back fondly on their day on the barge the way do on my elementary years and feel some connection to the river that runs through their country. I think we really underestimate how much our emotional selves drive our decision making. How often do we look at an issue, and feel torn between our rational minds and emotional gut feeling? The foundation we grow with from our parents, teachers, families, etc. surely helps to shape the way that gut feeling speaks to us; maybe our kindergarten really are the most powerful people we know.
Anyway, long story short, I had a great time, and am really looking forward to our next young kiddo trip next Monday!