Learning to Do School
As a tour guide, I have the wonderful opportunity to peek into the classrooms on a daily basis. While no two days are ever alike in a school, I do see familiar routines. In Kindergarten, it is very common to see children stretched out on the rug, playing with building toys, or looking at books. Teachers might be leading a dance, or lending a helping hand with an art project, or listening intently to a story about grasshoppers or fairy gardens, or showing how the letter W looks like an upside-down M. I always see children moving around the classroom, between centers and workshop tables, with confidence. But what is even more fascinating, is that when you go into a classroom day after day, and you get to know the class rhythms, you literally see the children become students.
At the beginning of Kindergarten, when it is hot and sticky outside, children ask questions that are very "I" centric.
"Do I put this in that box?"
"May I use a pencil instead of a crayon?"
"When it is my turn?"
"Will you hold this for me?"
Like a little flock of geese, sometimes these questions all come at once, from lots of little friends at the hem of the teacher's skirt. Not unlike Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, I have witnessed teachers gently reassuring each child of their place in those early days — and still manage to teach them to wait their turn, help one another, and develop problem-solving skills.
And almost in sync with the leaves turning orange, the questions shift.
"Does the m--m--mm sound in front of -at, make mat and the r-r-r sound in front of -at make rat?"
"And if I switch -at with -ar does is sound out mar?"
"If I need to count to 10 more quickly, can I do it by twos? 2-4-6-8-10?"
Or my all-time favorite, "If you need a friend at recess just sit on the orange rock." and even better, "If you see a friend sitting on the orange rock, go ask them to play."
And just like that, they get it. They get it all.