Robert Fulgham’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten inspired millions. It also supported the belief that kindergarten is a soft, warm, fuzzy place. As a former high school teacher, I thought subbing in kindergarten would be easy. There was a reason why these positions were the hardest to fill. If I were in the building subbing for someone else, the principal would find me before I put my purse down to fill a kindergarten slot. Here is what subbing in kindergarten taught me.
1. If there is a classroom aide, she’ll always be absent the day you sub.
2. It’s all about crowd control. Often the teacher is the equivalent of the musclebound security team, except there’s only one of her and she does not get to kick children out of the class for rowdy behavior.
3. Herding cats is similar to getting kindergarteners from point A to point B.
4. Some teachers leave behind beautiful detailed lesson plans, others don’t. This resulted in me trying to get kids who couldn’t count to ten to count by 3’s & 5’s. It never occurred to me that math was simply coloring in blocks until one boy explained it to me.
5. Some kids will adore you simply because you walked through the door. The flipside is an equal number of children will regard you as the devil.
6. The children also know where the regular teacher hides everything including candy and Band-Aids.
7. While some kids lie with a perfectly straight face, other children will tattle on them.
8. Uneven numbers do not work well in work or play. When a third child joins a group, often there is great resistance.
9. While change is inevitable, kindergarteners resist it.
10. Whenever you sub, there will be an assembly, fire drill, schedule change or the lights will go out.
11. Being line leader is all. If a teacher didn’t leave specific instructions, kids will run, shove, and even lie to be the line leader.
12. Who a child is going to be is apparent in kindergarten. There are leaders, followers, creative thinkers, bullies and victims.
13. Kindergarteners believe something is good if you put enough enthusiasm in your voice and tell them it is good. (Adults fall prey to this in commercials.)
14. “I don’t want to” or “I don’t like it” appear to be acceptable reason not to do assignments.
15. The average five year old has a fifteen-second attention span even if bribed with candy.
16. Children have no personal boundaries. They’ll often climb into your lap, give spontaneous hugs, and stroke your hair.
17. While some children happily color the cow purple, others want to be told what the right color is.
18. Children get more attention by imaginary illnesses than good behavior.
19. Bad behavior results in more attention from the teacher. Kids, who kick or pull hair, get to walk by the teacher holding her hand for the safety of all the other children.
20. Zippers are difficult for little hands. Imagine having to zip up twenty coats before you can go outside.
21. All kindergarten classrooms should have several tissue boxes. Murphy’s Law designates there will be one tissue box with two tissues left in it the day you sub.
22. Girls whine, tattle and cry to get their way. Oddly, boys tend to avoid whining and crying, but they are not above tattling.
23. If you make return appearances to the school, you are treated like a visiting celebrity, as long as you’re subbing in another room.
24. Children cherish routine. Do something out of order and they’ll let you know. A few will even go into meltdown because you didn’t get in line by birthday months.
What this has taught me is to be appreciative to the brave souls who teach kindergarten, better yet to applaud them. I can see a kindergarten teacher as a future heroine.