Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Perfect Example of a Perfect Society

 I know that 5 year olds are not the perfect example of a perfect society. Of course I know that they can be selfish, self-centred, egotistical, demanding, silly, and hugely inappropriate. I know this! But, there are times when I look at my class of 5 year olds, and I see how they interact, and  I wonder when exactly we lost it. When did we lose the simple, straight-forward, in your face innocence. And I wonder why we lost it, and if it is possible to get it back. There are certain behaviours that these children exhibit every day that, in their world, is common and ordinary. But in our adult world, it is almost a miracle.

In kindergarten we are colour blind in the best way. That doesn't mean we don't notice that others look different than we do. It means we honestly and really don't care that they look differently than we do. Children know that others look different than they do. Children are notorious for pointing out differences. But what makes this different in 5 year olds than in adults is huge. A child is merely making an observation. They don't care that you are different, they are just interested that you are different. And a child doesn't get offended that you noticed they were different. It is adults who project their own feelings on to this issue. Kids are just curious.

In kindergarten we practice forgiveness every day. I hit you, you hit me, we tell the teacher, we get over it, we go off and play together. My class this year is the perfect example of this. It is almost maddening as a teacher because conflicts happen every day, multiple times a day But, do they stay away from each other? Nope. Do they just go and play with other children? Nope. Why? Because whatever happened, whatever was said, whatever was done is in the past. They have moved on. In kindergarten, every day is a new day. Every moment is fresh and uncluttered with grudges.

In kindergarten we honestly have a lack of materialism. (Note: this is not a lack of entitlement, but a lack of caring what other people have or do not have). I teach in a community that is probably one of the wealthiest in the region that I live, but we do have many families who do not have as much access to material goods as others. Kindergarten is the great equalizer. By the end of the day we are all a bit more sweaty, a bit more dirty, our clothes are a bit more stained, but we honestly don't care. It is irrelevant to us that one is wearing designer clothes and one is wearing the latest Walmart fashion. We don't care what kind of car you drive. We don't care about your lunch box or backpack. We don't even care if you come to school in the same clothes you wore yesterday (or everyday). Are you going to have a fun time out on the playground? That is what we care about.

Kindergarten is the ultimate in community/civic mindedness. When it is clean up time we clean up. Why? Because we can't move on to the next part of our day if the room is still messy. And no one really wants to be the whole class is late to gym, music, or the bus. In kindergarten we are individuals, and we do make our own choices. But, over-all, we are a team, a group, a community. We work together because if we don't, we fall together. It is all for one and one for all! If some of us talk in the hallway, we don't get our class mentioned on the announcements. It's that simple (and yes, getting mentioned on the announcements is a Big Deal). We know the pride of working together to make our class community the best one in the school.

Kindergarten isn't perfect. We can be loud, and we can be defiant. We can want to do what we want, when we want. I know this. But there are moments in each day when what is possible is reality. When we can see perfection in a moment. When that one child, who loves to be the centre of attention, stops what she is doing and helps another child who is hurt. When that child who struggles to sit still during group time can become so involved in what he is writing that he spends an hour making sure it is perfect. When those two children, who can't seem to get along, suddenly put their past behind them and build the best ramp and smile at each other in the most sincere way.

No, kindergarten isn't perfect. But it has its moments.

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