Lessons learnt from Kindergartners
I’ve yet to determine why exactly it is that the kids feel as though their moans of dismay have any sway over what, or the order of, the work I assign them in class.
It’s both cute and annoying. “Okay, let’s get out our Practice book—” “No. Workbook.” I am unanimously interrupted by. No. If we were going to use our workbooks today, that’s what my lesson plan would read. A soul hollowing “Nooooo” is groaned in the most animated tone a groan can be groaned and still be considered a groan, followed by, “One page Practice book then Workbook. That okay?”
What, exactly, do you have to bargain with? I always want and mean to ask them, unfortunately the full consequence of the barter system is lost upon the 5-7 year olds I most regularly deal with. And really, they do have more leverage than I want them to be aware of: namely my happiness resulting from their compliance. Unfortunately, this is something they do understand. It’s a careful line to tow, levying your prescribed workload with their desired one. Cave too often and the adorable ruffians won’t settle for anything less—never give them a bone and they’ll enact their innate power of making the next 30 to 50 minutes of your life hell. The classroom is ever in a precarious balance between harmony and discord, the slightest action (and it needn’t even be yours!) can trigger mayhem.
So upon further reflection, they must be brilliantly stubborn statisticians who, after having studied the odds, in a collaborative effort concluded that it would always be in their best interest to at least try day for their desired itinerary. And that it would, really, be wasted opportunity if they did not at the very least try to have their way, despite the fact that I only entirely cave to their whims once in every 25 or so tries. That these times have happened to fall on the last Friday of the month seems not to have affected their strategy in the least. Luckily for me, long term pattern recognition isn’t their strongest suit, so I’ve still the ability to repeatedly surprise them.
But maybe I am just a fool for giving them the taste of decisive freedom, even as an occasional reward. Allowing them to feel that they had finally derived the power to determine their own workload, handing over to them the reins of their education. In my defense, I always worked best under these circumstances; the more involved in the responsibility of my education I felt, the more invested I was in making the most of it. The accumulating student loans (now debt), were the most effective motivation. Alas, these demanding kindies have yet to experience, or understand, the concept of cost, at least not on the scale I’d like them to. They understand that bad behaviour costs them certain privileges like an end of week game, or in more extreme circumstances the loss of their snack time. But the concept of their future selves has yet to develop, so my pleas to have them complicit in my aim to instill in them a comprehensive platform for the English language, fall on deaf ears..
Instead of getting hung up on the lack of existential awareness with which my group of approximately 30 kindies greet me, I meet them with just as much enthusiasm towards their Practice book as they have against it. And when all is said and done, and I find myself cleaning paint off of every possible exposed surface of their inexplicably messy selves, I notice it’s already Friday, and that I’ve forgotten to mark the passing of time.