As I prepare to head back to school Tuesday (really, I've been 'back' for weeks setting up, but I digress...), I am reminded of my first year in kindergarten. After teaching 2nd grade for years, I was asked to move to kindergarten. Knowing very little about it, I said 'yes' - sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
I was dumbfounded at just how dang hard it was. Those first few weeks, were beyond difficult. Teachers of grades first and up who have never taught kindergarten don't understand - to have a group of children walk in and know nothing about how to 'do school' is quite daunting. There's a reason they say it's like 'herding cats' - more like 'herding kittens' - the children simply do not know a thing about school.
Raising my hand? What's that?
Lining up? What's a line?
Inside voices? (shouting 'WHY?')
Sitting for more than two seconds? Impossible.
You get the idea. The first few weeks of kindergarten are more than teaching routines and procedures, it's teaching what school is. And the stomach poking. Poking. Poking. There are always a few students who will come right up to me, stand in front, and poke at my stomach to get my attention. Yes, POKE. Hard. I try to tighten my abs as best possible at my age and explain to them that poking Mr. Halpern isn't the best way to get my attention.
What I realized, after the chaos of the first few weeks was the children were pure love. They wanted nothing more than to be there, learn, laugh, sing, move (and move), and love. They showed me how patient I needed to be. They showed me how long they could sit (not very long). They showed me it was ok to take a hand and give hugs (lots of hugs). They showed me I needed to slow way down with my teaching. They were my itty bitty teachers and they showed me the way.
I met my new students last week at our Meet and Greet. They rode the bus with their parents and came to school for just an hour. As I stood in the hallway waiting for my first arrival, I spotted a little boy, rounding the corner, he saw me, smiled, and sprinted at full speed into a leap than landed with his arms wrapped around me. With that, I was reminded, lead with love. My new little teachers are already showing me the way.