Crusher of Dreams

Whenever I tell non-education acquaintances that I teach kindergarten, the reaction is invariably, “Wow!  That must be so much fun!”  What few people realize is that as a kindergarten teacher, I’m actually a crusher of dreams.

Parents send their perfect, beautiful child to school full of hopes and dreams of the great potential in the child.  And each child is amazing, unique, and has so much to offer.  But sometimes the reality is that there are issues – issues with behaviour, or flags that all is not right with social interactions or a variety of language or academic skills.  It becomes my job to document my concerns and begin referrals, have those difficult initial conversations with parents, consult with other professionals at my disposal, and come up with a plan for the best way to support the child.  As the first teacher that most parents and children have contact with in the public education system, it is my job to set a positive tone for what may become years of interventions, meetings, and plans.

Parents react to the discussions differently.  Sometimes there’s a nod of recognition, the “oh, we’ve noticed that too” response.  Other parents reject the concern outright, the “how dare you think that of my perfect, beautiful child” response.  Then there are reactions that fall everywhere in between.  All parents go through what looks somewhat like the stages of grief though – there’s very often some denial and anger, and definitely sadness, before parents come to acceptance and are willing to be full partners in planning for their child.  Sometimes that acceptance is years away, and I never get to see it.

It is in these first, difficult contacts with parents that the knowledge and skills I’ve gained from inclusive education classes have become extremely helpful.  Being knowledgeable about an exceptionality, and how to best support a child with it, is comforting to parents.  It gives credibility to what I say to them, and provides me with the confidence to say the things that need to be said.

Teaching is all about relationships – with our students, their families, our colleagues – and relationships are never more important than when we are guiding parents through the initial snags on their child’s educational path.  It’s important to begin developing those relationships even before kindergarten begins, so that if there is a need for a difficult conversation at the beginning of the year, the groundwork of trust already exists.

And so, as I sit highlighting and making notes on my kindergarten students’ report cards, in anticipation of parent/teacher conferences tomorrow, I weigh how I can directly, but gently, discuss certain topics.  I know that crushing dreams comes with the territory, but it never makes it any easier.


Life in Kindergarten: Kissing, Butt Slapping, and Nudity

I have a “rocking” little kindergarten class this year.  My students are rough, busy, and loud.  They haven’t come with much patience, don’t possess much stamina for school, and are struggling to make green choices. I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth since the beginning of the year, but some days . . . oh my, some days!

There are days I feel as though all I’ve done is manage behaviour.  I’ve pulled out all my teacher tricks, I’ve read for new ideas, and I’ve picked the brains of my colleagues.  And still, there are days that I feel defeated by a group of five year olds!

But then the best thing happens . . . I pop into the room across the hall, or make a longer walk down the hall to the middle year’s end.  I visit with one of my colleagues, and we share stories of our wild day, sometimes over chocolate.  All the stuff that made the day seem disastrous melts away in the heat of laughter.  The shared stories help create a problem solving atmosphere, and often a plan for moving forward germinates from the interaction.  I am so grateful for the supportive relationships I have, for the people around me who gently push me to do better.

By the time I get home, I am able to tell the funny stories of the day, and laugh.  My teenagers giggle at the number of times I’m asked for a kiss, that my butt is slapped or fondled as a question asking method, or that a child pulls down his pants.  They think kindergarten is definitely more x-rated than high school!

Adding the therapy from my family to the therapy already received from colleagues, allows me to confidently and happily face a fresh day each morning . . . which is exactly what the little people I work with deserve.


The Power of Talk

I teach kindergarten half-time.  Working with the youngest students in the school is busy, especially during centres time.  Although they develop so much independence over the school year, there are often things they still need help with, whether it’s holding a craft while they tape or staple, solving a conflict with a peer, or helping to clean up a spill.  Then there’s the time that’s needed for various assessments, whether it’s writing observations, direct questioning and testing, or helping students add to their digital portfolios.  This is where my ideal centres world and my lived centres world don’t always match.

But one day last week, my ideal centres world got to come out for a few minutes.  I had time to sit on the floor with four students and build with Kinex.  The time to talk with them about their learning was valuable – I got to hear their thinking about the building process and do a mini-lesson with counting, as well as have them clarify some of their statements.  But equally valuable was the social talking we did – about grandparents, an upcoming trip to Hawaii, and Easter.

Task-driven talk drives much of my time in the classroom.  It’s important to make as much time as possible for social talk that builds and extends relationships with my students.