Kindergarten and life

Guest blog by Katie French

Kindergarten Teacher

Wilkes County Schools

I have taught kindergarten for four years. Over that time I have gained a reputation for being good with low-achieving students. Therefore, I usually have a classroom with a few misunderstood angels.

Let’s face it — these are five-year-old children. Is it their fault they didn’t get a bath? Is it their fault they were allowed to play Xbox until 11:30? Is it their fault they never had rules, guidelines, boundaries, or consequences? Of course not. I should never make them suffer for something they hadn’t been taught. It is my job to teach manners, respect, rules, and many other things that children should learn at home, but can also learn in school. It is nice when students already know how to behave in class, but it is not their fault if they have not been prepared for school.

Before the beginning of this year, I was called to my principal’s office.  She said there was a student who had to be placed in my room. He would be too disruptive in any of the other 6 kindergarten classes. I took a breath and listened as she debriefed me.

At the end, I said “Okay, we’re happy to have him.” My principal blinked and said she’s not surprised that the story of this wild, unruly, violent, “growling” little boy didn’t faze me. And it didn’t because I have seen a lot in my years. I know that the reputations and stories that come from preschool or home are due to factors like environment, teachers, parents, or the lack there of. I went back to my classroom and included this “problem child” on my class roster.

The year started well for a kindergarten classroom. We dried tears and assessed ABC’s. The boy who concerned the principal (we will call him Logan) was rather reserved, like he was in observation mode.  He didn’t participate in songs or group conversations. He was just there. I didn’t force him to participate because I could tell he was soaking it all in.

As the days passed, he began exhibiting his impulses. He kicked his neighbor’s chair repeatedly. So I tied a stretchy band between the front legs of his chair for his feet to quietly bounce on and I thanked him every time he used it.  He broke pencil after pencil. He was frustrated because his fine motor skills were underdeveloped. I placed a pencil through a tennis ball so he could grip it better, and I admired his handwriting every chance I got.

The weeks went by and I couldn’t get over the look on his face when I encouraged him or thanked him for following the rules. It was as if he had never heard praise before. Whenever I called his name, he was startled.  I quickly realized this boy had been scolded, but never encouraged.  Some of his actions require modifications but I am a teacher, it is my job to teach my students whatever they need to become good learners.

Logan’s guardian/grandmother was defensive at the beginning of the year. She knew that his earlier school experiences had been negative. The things we did for him did not strike me as amazing or even virtuous. We do whatever a child needs to learn life lessons about rules, consequences, manners, and respect. We do far more than teach the Common Core Standards.

One day I got a handwritten note from Logan’s grandmother. She said she was grateful for how I understood Logan’s needs. She thanked me for not judging him. She was grateful that I didn’t let others’ opinions shape mine. As I read the note, I realized people think every child should be a certain way.

Thankfully, I developed ways to work with my “misunderstood angels” over the past four years of teaching. All they need is to be taught to listen and trust.

Too many people think teachers are responsible for teaching only academics. If I taught only academics I would be stuck with a kicking, pencil breaking, growling little boy. Logan is now reading on a fourth grade level. Apparently, his intelligence was being over powered by behavioral out bursts caused by frustration, misunderstanding, and a lack of positive attention.

Students learn from the example of adults. I hope my understanding approach to teaching is picked up by my students.  I’m more concerned about this than whether they can remember how to use a ten frame to solve math problems.

I will continue teaching virtues in my classroom, even if they never get written into the curriculum. And I will welcome all the misunderstood angels, greeting them with a clean slate and a hug.


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