Kindergarten isn’t like it used to be. As a teacher, I have been in the classroom for over 25 years and most of that time has been in Kindergarten, When I first started teaching five year olds, I was entranced. There was such palpable enthusiasm and joy that I came to believe in the magic of Kindergarten. We sang songs, played with play dough, made friends and learned new things. However, times have changed and so has Kindergarten. The testing frenzy has made its way down to the youngest learners. We are told about new mandates, requiring us to test our students in letter knowledge, rhyming, reading and the list goes on. We are urged to “raise the bar” and have high expectations. We sit at endless meetings, learning about new programs, strategies and research. No one wants to mention the “p” word (play) because how will we fit everthing into our two and half hour day? My mailbox is filled with fliers for workshops on teaching my students about economics, the environmenst and yes, anthropology. Did I mention that we have a two and a half hour day?
Do we have time to tie shoes, open snacks or is there even time for snack? What do we do if someone is sick or bleeding or eating a pencil? Do we take care of the students who are wiping their noses on their clothes (or on our clothes)? I have increased my coffee intake and upped my migraine medication. I go to yoga class and practice deep breathing. Wht else can I do? There are no easy answers. If I had them, I could run a lot of workshops for stressed-out teachers. I go to work every day and look at those expectant faces. I teach songs, read all my favorite stories, and yes, I let my students play. I put bandaids on cuts and clean up what needs to be cleaned up. Most of all I let them have fun while they learn because they won’t be five years old for very long. I do what I have to do to test and meet requirements but I continue to do what matters most because I still believe in the magic of Kindergarten.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.