Do you remember the book “The Outsiders?”. For me that was some of my first experiences learning about ‘those kids’ (aka ‘at risk’, ‘trouble’). Growing up I do remember ‘that kid’ in my grade-but in my years in education it seems that at some point in our recent history that kid became those kids and some days it can feel like most kids.
As a kindergartner today some of our kids:
- don’t know if there will be food at home tonight
- never set foot in a school until they entered kindergarten.
- are refugee’s from another country
- live down the street with aunts, uncles and other family members
- are in foster care
- have lost a parent already to violence, to cancer, to an unfortunate accident
- have seen drug deals, their mom hit, hurt themselves, or afraid to go home
None of this is defined by the color of their skin, by where they were born, by their gender, by whom they live with, or how much money their families make. However what will define them is how we treat them and prepare them to move forward in the educational system.
For those of us who have the opportunity to work with kindergartners-we are triage in the educational system. We screen, we assess and we do the best to treat the most prevalent symptoms before they leave our classrooms for first grade. Some of these students we may ‘fix’ through a breakthrough, through a relationship, or through the dedication and hard work that is put in each and every day. Other students-those students- we work to treat the most urgent symptoms. The hitting, bitting, kicking, swearing. The refusal to work, the crying, the hurt, the frustration, the sadness, the fear. We do this every day, unsure if today will be the day that kid gets it. Until then we keep our nose to the ground, we keep reflecting on our teaching, reviewing what went well, and rehashing what didn’t. Some days we can’t wait to get back into the classrooms, and others we drag ourselves in for. Kindergarten is more complex than a text level, a math assessment score. It is more than the life skills grade that measures social skills and ability to complete classwork.
Kindergarten is the only place those kids enter in on almost equal footing as other kids.
Regardless of the circumstances I know as a lead learner with kindergartners today ALL of our kids:
- have a desire to please and do their best for those of us who care for them.
- are excited to share new learning.
- want to be noticed, want to be praised, and want our attention.
- care for each other.
- care for their family members and want to please and be praised by them.
- feel bad when mistakes are made-but feel better when they know we will stay with them and will support them in trying again, and again if needed.
Please continue to DREAM BIG for our Smallest Learners!