Nearly once a week for the past nine months, I have experienced the most calming, relaxing, refreshing hour I’ve ever spent outside of Elements Day Spa. On Wednesday mornings at 10 o’clock, I reported to a room full of soothing music, happy chatter, supportive camaraderie, and a smooth swirl of simple but intriguing activity. Where is this magical place I had the privilege to visit each week? My son’s kindergarten classroom.
Among the benefits of having my children a little later in life is being able to take a few short years away from the nine to five grind to immerse myself in their lives. I appreciate and savor that privilege, and never more so than this year when I got to share the kindergarten experience with my son and his classmates.
What a delightful group they were! They were polite, cheerful and eager. If Holly isn’t Mayberry, you sure couldn’t prove it by spending an hour with those wholesome sunshine faces. I enjoyed sitting down with them individually or in small groups and working with them on reading or math. They always performed without complaint and usually stayed with me a little longer than necessary just to tell me about some funny thing or another that was on their minds. But more than that, I enjoyed the days when I did busy work like cutting paper or hanging art projects, because on those days I could step back and listen.
Believe it or not, I rarely heard the children argue. They mostly chatted with glee about how they were going to draw this or make that. They worked together very well in pairs and in groups, and were remarkably supportive of one another’s efforts. With as wide a range of ability as exists in that first year of public school, I never heard anyone compare their work to others’ or brag or criticize or whine that they couldn’t do something well enough. Instead, I heard the kids share new ideas with their friends when the light bulb of realization flashed above their heads. What a great honor to witness some of those moments!
Of course, none of our children are good all the time, and I suspect I wouldn’t be the only parent to report that my kindergartener’s behavior was better at school than at home. My son’s teacher was just an expert at leading in a firm but supportive way. The kids knew what to expect each day, they knew the cues the teacher would use to signal a shift to a new activity, and they moved to the rhythm she established. Even on the rare occasions that a child misbehaved, the child was told simply what he or she had done wrong and was told to sit in a chair apart from the group. The matter was solved without any drama or unnecessary attention called to the situation. It was truly remarkable how smoothly eighteen little ones were led from lesson to lesson to activity to activity with very little disruption.
The magic of this classroom struck me particularly because my son did not enjoy preschool. In fact, so strongly did he resist everything they did in his preschool classroom, I began to think he would never learn to like school. But in this happy classroom provided by our Holly Area Schools, my son learned to love it.
I don’t know why he did it, but as I held the camera to take a picture of my son exiting the school on his last day of kindergarten, he stopped, and still holding the door, gave me a thumbs up. I couldn’t agree with the sentiment more.