It is August. I look around my classroom. The floors are clean and shiny, the crayons are perfectly in order, every toy and game piece and manipulative is in its place. The chairs are pushed in, the computers are working, and the bulletin boards look beautiful. It is peaceful and quiet and organized.
Somehow a miracle happened the day before. In between faculty meetings, grade level meetings, meeting with parents in person who couldn’t make it to orientation night, and taking phone calls from parents who forgot to tell me about this allergy or that behavior issue, I actually finished my day’s list (I found this list the other day in my August folder…this was actually a to-do list to get done in one day).
My room is ready, but am I ready? This was my twelfth year to teach Kindergarten and I still woke up on the first day of school with butterflies in my stomach.
God has called me to be a teacher, and He will equip me to be a teacher.
He will help me teach 20 kids where the restrooms are; what the difference is between a boys’ restroom and a girls’ restroom; why boys and girls don’t use the same restroom. He will help me keep up with 20 kids when they all need to go to the bathroom at the same time; when they don’t know if they have snack, lunch, or snack and lunch in their lunchboxes. He will help me when they don’t know where their bus is, and there are 25 buses to choose from in 100 degree weather. And when all of these issues are settled, He will help me teach them to read, write, sing, count, and understand numbers!
It is the end of the first day of kindergarten. I look around my classroom. The floors are scuffed and marked…and did someone REALLY write their name on the floor on the first day of school?Really!?! How was I not looking?!? The red crayons (I only give one crayon on the first day—“until we get used to using them” I say…and we must not be used to it yet–I mean, someone wrote on the floor and all…) are broken, missing their paper labels, and they are not all in the crayon pouches like we practiced. There are toys, game pieces, and manipulatives on my table that were “found” and for the life of me, I don’t know where their place is. Even if I did know where to put them, I’m not sure I can get up from this kid-sized chair I’m in. My teaching table is covered with registration papers, last minute notes from parents, a lunchroom checklist, First Day of School pictures checklist, and my bus chart. Though the room is quiet, my ears seem to be ringing with the noise and activity that happened just a few moments earlier.
And we start over again tomorrow.
Can I do this?!? Why am I doing it?
Oh, yes. It’s those kids. The 20 boys and girls that I love already. The ones who already love me, even though some of them don’t yet like me. To some children, I’m the one who is making them sit a certain way, walk a certain way, and talk in a certain way for the first time–even if they don’t want to! We usually start school on a Thursday in my county, and the kindergarten teachers always notice that on Thursday and Friday our sweet little ones come skipping down the halls with a bright smile on their faces, ready for some school fun. But on Monday…well, on Monday, the honeymoon is over. They realize that this school thing is permanent, at least for the next 10 months, and we see lots of tears.
Eventually, the tears subside and the summer gradually fades into the crisp, colorful days of autumn. Both the students and I fall into a new school year, a new routine, and a wonderful relationship that I cherish from then on. Kindergarten students are, for the most part, quick learners. They learn SO much in a short year. I see kids that come into my room who don’t know how to hold a pencil, sit in a chair, sit “criss-cross applesauce” (they look like a pretzel the first few tries), and walk in a line. I see kids who don’t know how to count, read letters, and sometimes I see kids who don’t know what their name is. Sadly, I see kids who don’t know how to accept a hug or a high five. I see kids who don’t know how to show love. By the end of the year, I need to have taught these little ones to write correctly, read fluently, understand addition and subtraction, and to have self-control in any situation.
What a big responsibility this is. It is overwhelming and it is an honor.
God has called me to do this, and He is equipping me to do this.
The autumn season is a fun season. We learn about change and leaves and community helpers. We learn about letters, sounds, and sight words. We learn about counting and number sense. And then a few things happen that send a little stress each kindergarten teacher’s way. We do our first report card. We have parent-teacher conference day. We sometimes have an open house. We do fall festivals. And we do that thing called Dress Up for Halloween and Get Candy and Cupcakes and Goody Bags But Still Have a Normal Day of Instruction. It’s the teacher’s “favorite”. 🙂
By Christmas break, my kiddos and I have our routine down pat. I am a very routine-oriented teacher, so they become the same. We learn about Christmas around the world, and we celebrate together in our own special way. We’ve gotten so used to each other that I really miss them over Christmas break, and I’d venture to say they miss me too!
In the early days of cold and frosty January, they come back and I am waiting at the door. Something happens to kindergarteners over Christmas break. Teachers sometimes call it Christmas Magic. The kids come back and they are more mature, somehow more thoughtful, and even more eager to learn. We get the privilege and the joy of seeing the “light come on” for so many kids this time of year. And it is truly a joy and privilege to witness.
By the time we have celebrated the one hundredth day of school, passed out valentines and shamrocks, and hunted eggs, we are all pros, kids and teachers alike!
The end of the school year is a blur of springtime fun. Kite day, Field day, Fun day, and Game day are the highlight of most kids’ school year. They are having so much fun that some of them are surprised when the year suddenly comes to the end. Sometimes we have kindergarteners that cry on the last day of school when they realize that they are not coming back to this classroom again as a student.
And now, it’s the end.
It is the end of the last day of school. The floors are scuffed and marked, though the kids and I swept well. There are a few game pieces and toys still hanging around that don’t have a place, and for the life of me, I can’t think of where they go. The crayons have all been sent home. My teaching table is covered with flowers, gifts, and notes written by my sweet kindergarten friends, in their special spelling, telling me they love me and that they hope I have a good summer. Telling me that they thought I was a good teacher. Telling me they will miss me.
It is still and quiet, but my heart is still singing with the happy noise and chatter from the year that happened in this very special place.
And then I cry.
I cry because I miss them already. I miss their sweet smiles, their loud singing and laughing, their happiness, the way they need me, and their love. I miss their “fun-ness” and their jokes and their voices.
A few years ago, I realized that when I kept telling others that I loved kindergarten, I wasn’t always being 100 percent honest. I was reading 1 Corinthians 13, and I saw a list about love. “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (13: 4-7)
If this is love, did I really love being a teacher? Was I really showing love to my kids all the time at school? For that matter, was I showing love with my personal kids, my husband, friends, and in my Christian walk? This was, and still is, a set of verses that constantly challenges and inspires me to love the way that Jesus loves me. There are days when it is REALLY hard to show this kind of love. When kids aren’t being nice, when pressure is building because of test scores, when parents are unhappy.
But God has called me to love, and He will equip me to do it.
If you are a student of mine now or in years past, know that Mrs. Givens loves you. I have high hopes for you all. I thank God, and I thank your parents and you for making my job such a joy and honor each year.
And to my current kiddos, I’m EXCITED to do FIRST GRADE with YOU!
Jesus Loves Me, Adapted by Paige Givens, 2014