After a long, luxurious summer of sunshine, travels, family, and friends I settled in over the Labour Day weekend to refocus and think about what this September will bring. It is always such an exciting time of year. We are renewed and refreshed. We are craving the crisp aromas and sounds of autumn and the routines that September brings. Above all, however, there is one group within our school community that really stands out for me each year – and those are our brand new, littlest learners that are embarking on their first formal school experience.
This week we will greet sixty (!) new Kindergarten children and their families at Pauline Johnson – the highest number of Kindies we’ve ever welcomed to PJ. As such, I decided that going back to Robert Fulghum’s beautiful poem, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” was an appropriate homework assignment for myself at this time of year.
You know the poem – we all do. As I read through it this time, however, I aimed to connect the sage advice to my own observations about students over my past nineteen years as an educator. Of all the roles I have had in my career, teaching Kindergarten was by far one of my richest and most rewarding. I have always said that it is the toughest job in the system in the fall, and the best job in the world after Spring Break.
Below are a few connections I made as I reminisced, reflected and prepared to embrace and support our sixty new Kindergarteners (and their parents and teachers!) this week. I invite you to read through and connect to it in your own way.
“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.” The way we treat others needs to be a priority, more-so now than ever before. Being kind with our words and offering someone an ear in these busy times can be a life-changer. Letting children speak to me about their perspective before making decisions or issuing consequences has always been my priority as a teacher and administrator. Letting parents know I am here to listen and that my door is open for dialogue has too. Stay connected, lead with the heart and hold on to the people and things that matter.
“Be aware of wonder.” One of our district pillars holds inquiry in its trifecta. We all have various ways that we embrace and weave it into our schools, classrooms and lessons. As long as questioning and the search for deeper learning is honoured we are on the right track. Core skill sets are also vital for our children, but a classroom of deep inquiry and personalization feels different. It feels energetic and hopeful. Isn’t this what all of us should be allowed to experience…especially our kids?
“Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” I reconstruct playground conflict far more often than anyone, other than a Principal, could imagine. I work at encouraging expression of feelings. I field tears with tissues. I reframe angry words into phrases of ownership and apology. I set goals around emotion with children and staff that are attainable. I ensure we follow through on the progress of those goals…together. And I believe in the power of a make-up handshake or a hug for those in my care. Things affect everyone in a community in various ways and it is an honour to support my stakeholders as they navigate the realities of relationships.
“Play fair.” I suppose one of the biggest learnings of my life has been this – we are all on the same team. The sooner we realize this the better the world will be. Our neighbours and the person in the car next to us or the cashier at the store are also on this human journey just…like…us. One of the best songs I know is by Garth Brooks as he turned the advice from a mother for her daughter heading to college into a billboard hit; if you haven’t heard “Humble and Kind” then take the time to.
“Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” Our society asks us to balance ourselves – yoga, road biking, paddle boarding, meditation, affirmation and gratitude journals, retreats, the CALM App. I’ve tried it all and hope that someday a miracle will happen. But until then, when my emails are overwhelming or my brain’s capacity to manage just one more logistic seems like it might be too much, I get up, leave my office, and go into the Kindergarten classroom. I can be in that space for 20 minutes and learn more about perspective than any self-help best seller could teach me. I dance, I sing, I read, I ask, I listen. I am in amazement at what 5-6 year-olds teach me. Once a little boy said to me, “Mme. Just sit with me and let’s look out that big window for a bit.” And so I did. It was hard to see out of it with the tears in my eyes.
And so on the eve of another school year, a welcome back to our PJ families. I particularly extend a special wrap-around to our new Kindergarten children and their caregivers, and a thank you to our dedicated staff that give of themselves each day to make our school a special place. And finally, I would like to offer a warm thanks to Robert Fulghum for his ageless advice. Oh, I forgot to add my final favourite – “Flush”; it’s going to be a loooong September!
Wishing you all a wonderful start up as we smile and remember what learning, growing, and our world are really all about.
With Open Arms,