"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Wisdom from kindergartners

By on May 28, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Pat Kanis-Wolfe

When I inquired at the office, I was directed down the hall, first door on the left. I found the door quickly enough, but stopped before opening it.

A mild panic started to consume me. I wasn’t sure what I was doing there. Why was I there? This wasn’t like me. I don’t remember ever wanting to do this and yet I had deliberately come.

Pretending. That’s it, I was pretending. Pretending to be someone that I’m not.

A mistake. Yes, it was a big mistake. I could turn around right this very minute and make a beeline back to my car, never looking back.

And yet… here I was, standing outside this door… down the hall, on the left. With unwavering courage, I decided to make my move. Taking a deep breath, I turned the doorknob and walked in.

And then I saw him standing there… curly dark hair, big brown eyes and a smile to melt my heart. His name was Andre and he was five years old. They were all five years old.

Welcome to Kindergarten 101.

What’s that on your eyelid? (A skin tag.) What’s that on your chin? (A mole.) Why are your teeth so yellow? (They’re old.) Children are so amazing.

After spending three years volunteering in a kindergarten classroom, I can honestly say that those years were some of the happiest, most precious of my life. 

From the very beginning, I was smitten, although I have to admit that in the early days the kids made me a nervous wreck: yak, yak, yak… run, run, run… turn upside down, lay on the floor.. run, run, run some more. But soon I acclimated to the pace at which a kindergarten operates and went with the flow (although I never did lay on the floor).

Energetic, candid, eager, compassionate… these are some of the words that describe five-year olds, but I never expected them to be so affectionate. 

For instance, one morning when I came into the classroom, one of the little ones, upon seeing me come through the door, got up out of his seat and walked over to hug me “hello.” So sweet! The next day, three of the kids greeted me in the same fashion. By day three, I was greeted by all 18 children with one giant group hug that nearly knocked me off my feet. I was in heaven! 

The group hug went on for a couple of weeks before it came to an abrupt end (teacher intervention) when waving hello replaced mobbing

It was both a disappointment (loving that group hug) and a relief (fearful that I might be knocked over… after all, I was 55 yeas old… I mean 58 years old… all right, all right I was 63 years old and not as stable on my feet as I would liked to have been).

As time went on, my duty was to work one-on-one with those students who needed extra help in some area, say recognition of letters of the alphabet or numbers. 

Yes, unlike in the olden days when I went to kindergarten (half-day) where the focus was on nursery-rhyme activities (“Farmer in the Dell”) or group games (“Duck, Duck, Goose!”), today’s kindergartners are required to be able to read! 

I was also asked to work with those students who were advanced in one area or another, giving them more challenging activities.

With the school’s permission, my husband made me a long, but not very deep, table to push against a wall in the hallway across from the classroom. I reupholstered a thrift shop chair (plush zebra) and voila… adult size chair to sit at kid-size table. I don’t have to tell you, though, that I never got to sit in that zebra chair. I guess I didn’t run fast enough.

And so I worked in the hall, one-on-one or one-on-two and sometimes one-on-four, depending on the need.

In my time in kindergarten, here is a sampling of what I learned from the kids:

“When I grow up and move to my own house, I’m only going to take my grandma.”

“I’m hungry.” (I heard this a lot.) “We got up too late and missed free-breakfast ’cause daddy didn’t get us here on time.

“My dad was sick again last night. He promised me that he wouldn’t get sick, but then he did. Then he didn’t go to work again today.” 

Serious social agreement: “Do you want to be my friend?” “O.K.”

“My dad is picking me up today. He’s taking me to the doctor, because I have a sore throat.” (Oh, great.)

Me: “You’re doing a great job cutting with scissors. I don’t think I could cut as nicely as you.” Kindergartner: “That’s because you’re a grandma.” (Remind me to get my roots done, will you.)

Boy: “I’m happy.” Girl: “I’m happy, too.”

Boy: “I’m happy, because I get to come to school.” Girl: “I’m happy, because I get to come to school, too.

“This is waaay better than daycare!”

Non-kid quote: (custodian walking down the hall with a mop and bucket): “Is there anyone in this school who isn’t sick?”

Never under-appreciate the wisdom of children. Their world is how the real world should be.

Pat Kanis-Wolfe is originally from Akron, Ohio and now lives with her husband, Tom, in Leavenworth.

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