I've been back to school for two weeks now, two weeks of half-day sessions where my class of nineteen students has been divided into a morning group of nine students and an afternoon group of ten. We're able to ease most students into new school routines when they're in the smaller groups: how to handle and put away personal belongings, giving papers to the teacher, using the lunch chart, washing hands, and using desk tools safely and at the appropriate times. Students can tour the school, and are introduced to specialists who in turn can share rules and routines that will need to be in place for effective and efficient use of time when we visit Art, Music, Science, Library and P.E. All of our learning centers can be demonstrated and explained, and we can get to know each student a bit better, academically through baseline screening/assessments and socially through one-on-one time. We begin to bond.
Even with the smaller groups, it's a huge undertaking. What most non-kindergarten teachers and parents fail to understand though is that despite this introductory time, once both groups of students are combined and attending kindergarten full day, it's a whole new ball of wax.
~ Students are four, five, or six years old. Many have had immediate attention from and constant interaction with their parents since birth, and haven't yet developed the skills, patience, or understanding of how time passes to be able to wait for their turn with the teacher. Adults will make an appointment and go on about their lives until it's time to meet. Kindergartners will not.
~ Having to compete with eighteen (or more) other students for the teacher's attention is a pain! How to get noticed and experience that instant gratification of acknowledgement? Push. Yell. Interrupt. Whine. Impatiently raise your hand so 1) you get points for following the rules but 2) get to talk to the teacher first. You know, all those things that work with moms and dads.
~ Speaking of what works at home: I asked a student demonstrating what I suspected was selective hearing exactly how many times he made his mother say his name before he answered her. The young man actually pondered, counted on his fingers, and then told me "three or four." No grin, no sass, and I suspect, no fib. My next question had to be "... and am I your mother?" No sarcasm, no authority, no threat. Just a question. He pondered again. "Uh......nooooooooo," followed by a puzzled expression that washed over his cherubic face.
That's right, you might *think* that parents or pre-school have readied your new students for sharing, taking turns, empathizing, sympathizing, being patient, and complying, but I'm here to tell you: I love kindergarten. I love kindergartners.
I do NOT love the first few weeks of our full day program.
My Stars are frustrated. They doubt me. They lash out at one another. They want my attention and they want it now, even though we're in the middle of a story, or a classmate has had an accident and needs his hand held to walk down to the nurse's office for a change of clothes. But *I* want you NOW teacher.
During the small group transition weeks, patience is easier. One-on-one time happens more often. It's easier to buy into following the rules, humoring the teacher, cutting one another some slack. Kindergarten is fun, and the kids are willing to come day after day. Parents are relieved and reassured.
And then WHAM-O, reality sets in, and we're back to square one. Parents become concerned because their children start saying they don't like kindergarten. Mrs. Sommerville is ~not~ the "bestest and nicest teacher ever," and sharing materials with that little girl that always grabs instead of asking or taking turns isn't fun. Students might compete with siblings at home, but I guarantee there are few who have to juggle eighteen other personalities, temperaments, moods and needs under their roof for seven straight hours when all they really care about are their own.
Sure, some of the kids are spoiled. Some are unexperienced and unexposed. Some are so performance-driven that they appear perfectly ready for school: they wait, use their indoor voices, say please and thank you, know how to use scissors safely, and they don't over-react when *that* kid cuts in line for the third time. After a few days of this perfection however, those sweethearts crack too, and rightfully so.
It's tough. Though it's part of the job, and I know everything, given time, will end up okay, it's draining. Difficult. Stressful.
And that's the truth.