I used to be scared of Kindergarteners. I teach gifted students, so this means I have students in K-5 at various times during the week. But I started my teaching career with 5th graders for 8 years. Once I began my current position several years ago, I hummed right along – until January rolled around and I started testing Kindergartners for the program. That is when I realized that my piddly experience with mouthy pre-teens with raging hormones was simple compared to spending an hour with a bunch of 5-year-olds who haven’t quite gotten the handle on their bodily functions yet.
Over the years, I have grown to accept that absolutely nothing goes the way I planned with my Kinders. Instead of fighting their unpredictable divergences from my lesson plans, I’ve started joining in on their wild rides, and I’m finding it to be a whole lot of fun.
This year, I have a group of five Kinders, and their conversations are just as entertaining as last year’s batch. I usually start the class with “Share Time”, so they can get their news out of their system. They are dying to tell me about their father’s uncle’s nephew’s birthday or the tooth they lost, or the tooth they’re going to lose even though it’s not even loose yet. But there’s one student who always likes to deliver a different kind of news:
“Okay, who has something to share today?” 5 hands go up.
“So, let’s start with Richard, and we’ll go around the table.”
“I have a soccer game tonight!”
“I do, too,” says Jacob.
“Is that what you wanted to share, Jacob?” Jacob nods.
“Well, I hope you both have great games! What about you, Lauren?”
“I have a wiggly tooth. And I love to draw.”
“I went to my father’s cousin’s birthday party yesterday.”
“Oh? What did you do at the party?”
“Well, we found a cockroach in the garbage can.”
“Hmm, you guys sure do play different games than I did when I was a kid. Alex, what did you want to share?”
“Wel-l-l-l,” he draws it out with great emphasis, “I learned that there’s one good thing about cancer.” Big pause. Deep breath. “It’s not contagious.”
Silence. The soccer players stare at Alex with slightly open mouths, and I try to think of an appropriate response.
“Gosh, Alex. I never thought about it that way. That is a silver lining, for sure. Thanks for pointing that out.”
This is the way it always goes with Alex. So far, we’ve learned that brains stop growing when you are in your teens, ladybugs chew from side to side instead of up and down, and that leprechauns used to live but now they are extinct. (We may need to have a small talk about reliable sources on the internet.) I’m a bit worried about Alex. Actually, I’m a bit worried about me. I’m probably going to be teaching this student for the next 5 years and, other than the internet source thing, I think I’ve already maxed out on the actual knowledge I’m going to be able to impart to him.
Yep – teaching 28 5th graders was a whole lot easier.