Kindergartener’s are professional subversive artists. They are naturals, especially when the subject is of non-interest or too abstract. And naturally if kindergartner’s are obligated to sit behind desks, while being instructed about arbitrary letters, words, and sounds through rote memorizations and drilling, there bodies are going to squirm and their going to speak out of turn. Abstract concepts being driven into them will initially be met with subversive tactics that send a distress call for something more tangible and authentic to their intrinsic interests. In other words, kids in kindergarten will quickly loose their attention span when boggled down with the abstractness of academics, if they can’t literally put their hands in the concrete. They crave tangible experiences. As a young teacher in the K-2, I am learning to pay attention to those signs that rarely they’ll speak of – where you completely loose their focus, before confusing them into a funk. Yet, this new found practical knowledge comes with mistakes. This is what I have come to know as the “Teacher Blunders.”
Here my latest in teacher blunders. Usually, I plan a mathematical activity or game the evening before. And the day after, before I can pass out the materials (I should have had them set and out before hand…opps) another game emerges and a group of them are playing their own game of poking and prodding another classmate. Teasing ensues before you can mention a word about the teacher’s marvelous curriculum. And you ask them to stop the teasing, remind them of the many discussions we have had on teasing, and try to instill in them a degree of real empathy. And some snarling remarks and under the breath jabs come out of a five year olds mouth and you have an authentic adult response (still keeping in mind he’s five,) but by this time the game had waned further away, in fact we are having trouble just getting starting. And this is a activity that has been successfully tested before by another teacher who only recommended it.
After the teasing seizes, you explain the simple rules of the game because all games have rules. The rules of course are non-competitive and cooperative based. You make a word slip and say the “W” (Win) world when explaining the object of the game. A voice inside that teacher skull of yours says: “Why the hell did I just say that when you want it to be non-competitive and here they are ready to topple each other with their egos.” You hope they don’t notice, but these are kids and there now in this frenzy about winning the game. But, you then try to reassure them that everyone “wins.” And you notice their interest is now fading, but you go through with the game anyway. Then you begin to notice that this simple game of “math bingo” is maybe over the top, because some are having trouble identifying the numbers. Therefore they begin to place chips on top of all the numbers, as if the more chips you have the more likely you take the “win.” Before you know it they’re all wanting to do this. Then you ask if they are interested in doing a vote to find out if their is enough interest for continuing the game. After most have decided to continue, you give it another teacher go at it. But, again there squirming in their seats, talking out loud, express no interest and the whole project comes to a screeching halt. At his point, you decide to quickly switch gears to another project. I pass out illustrations of a right and left hand for them to color and cut out, this time with much less verbal direction. The chaos comes to a calm. And you get out of the way to find your own breath among the stillness and the sound of a little voice asking you to check out their coloring, as if nothing ever happened.