I’m not sure who gets more of my sympathy on the first day of school — the new kindergarteners or the kindergarten teachers.
The teachers get applause all-around for even taking on that wide-eyed bunch of new recruits, but the little guys are taking a big step into a new world filled with the longest list of rules they have ever seen.
One minute it’s summer and their biggest challenge has been getting the sand off their feet. The next thing they know, a grown-up they do not know is insisting that they wash their hands, sit in a special spot, sit when asked and sit still. They have to line up, walk this way, go to assemblies, find the lunch area, explore a new playground, stop talking, talk when asked, make new friends, keep their hands to themselves, put things away and get their own zippers zipped. Gee whiz.
Some survived nicely, like the grandson of a friend, who, when asked what he had learned the first day, replied “Math and science.” “Like what?” mom said. “Oh, you know. The usual,” the future astrophysicist replied.
I go out of my way to eavesdrop on the kindergarten teachers that first day, knowing I will collect a handful of hilarious gems. The first chuckle came during the assessment tests given to see what each child knows.
The teacher was showing little Johnny shapes and asking if he knew what their names were. He put down an oval. Johnny stared at it pensively for a minute, refused any hints and then pronounced with certainty, “It’s a rectagon!”
Keeping a straight face, the teacher said no, it was an oval, to which Johnny queried, “Well, then what’s a rectagon look like?”
“I don’t know,” the teacher smiled. “I haven’t learned that one yet.”
Another teacher said that during number identification, she got a lot of “11teens” and “11-d-seven’s and a “1-d-5” for 15.” Again, points for creativity.
The teachers admit they also get a lot of “I know that one. I just can’t remember it.” That’s certainly my favorite excuse.
While no one hid rather than come in from recess this year, two kinders did decide to head toward the playground rather than the assembly with the teacher and the rest of the class. They didn’t get far, but heck, it never hurts to try.
Perhaps the entire day was summed up in an exchange with one teacher during that same assembly.
Knowing the child was going to be a challenge, the teacher sat right next to him, with instructions to sit quietly. The youngster simply couldn’t and proceeded to poke and prod the teacher in an effort to get his attention for a conversation. The teacher ignored him for a bit, modeling quiet, assembly behavior. Finally, the teacher turned and gave him “the look” along with a shake of the head and a finger to the lips.
After a deep breath, the child uttered what every kindergartener was probably thinking. “My mom’s nicer.”
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer with a soft spot for the little guys. Contact her at email@example.com.