As I walked through the hallways of Brier Creek Elementary School, everything seemed the same. For one, the school did not seem that much smaller, since I only grew maybe less than a foot since I’ve last been there. I recently started interning with a kindergarten class, and it really wasn’t what I was expecting.
I vaguely remember what I acted like in kindergarten and the things we did. I do remember nap time though, and much to my surprise, when I showed up to the elementary school, nap time is no longer a thing! That really shocked me the most but otherwise everything seemed exactly the same.
From the alphabet posters on the wall, to the traditional rainbow carpet, kindergarten really is no different.
Kindergarten focuses on a couple major aspects of learning, such as math and reading. However aside from that, they are taught basic forms of treating others with respect, and the proper way to behave in a classroom. These ultimately become the part of our lives we overlook and forget about mostly as we go on through high school and even into our jobs.
At Brier Creek, they follow a character building multimedia project called the “Positivity Project”. Essentially, it provides each grade level with knowledge on how to act and what a good person in society should be. For example, we covered open-mindedness and respect which gave the kids a quick breakdown with videos and discussion.
As we would do these projects, it got me thinking about how I never think about these things in my life anymore. Also, seeing some of the high schoolers and adults today, we have forgotten many of the non-academic lessons from our childhood.
Kindergarteners learn open-mindedness in a basic way, with the main slogan of trying new things. They are told to try new activities, maybe play with a new friend which allows kids more experiences and a wider understanding of what they like and do not like. As we get older, the definition of open-mindedness should be that we understand multiple facets of life or activities that we may not like but can understand or appreciate the significance of.
Adults have already developed their opinions and remain in a “box” where they do not expand or grow. It is something so painfully transparent when we see difficulty in making new friends or starting a new activity or hobby. With kindergarteners, it’s the complete opposite.
Surprisingly, as I have observed the kindergarteners, they show extreme open-mindedness when playing with friends. Cliques or groups never really exist and many of the kids are willing to play with anyone they see. It’s almost the exact opposite as we see in high schools, with kids divided into “subgroups” or categories that many thrive in or stay in for all four years. For example, we have the stereotypical athletes and its common to see the different sports mainly mingle within themselves. Similarly with band kids: They tend to have a core group of band students fall into their group of friends and their social circle. While it’s great to have a defined group of friends and people to lean on, we as high schoolers really lack the inability to branch out from the norm due to the pressure that we won’t fit in. So we stay in our groups and it continues to be ok for us.
Even further down the line, open-mindedness is forgotten by adults and instead of friendships, it comes in the form of ignorance and the inability to communicate. The news and public today shows a massive divide, creating two sides in arguments and having no room to communicate or share ideas without being afraid. We constantly attack each other for the way we think or the things we say and allow no room for growth or the oppositions opinions, keeping us trapped in a constant cycle of conflict.
Kids are reminded of the importance of respect and showing it not only to teachers but to each other. Kindergarteners come to school excited constantly and that excitement translates to talking. We try and instill in them that you can’t talk over other people because it is rude, and we have to show the speaker respect by listening quietly. While it’s still a work in progress with the kids, they seem to get the idea and are trying to follow the rules.
A lot of the kids are at the same stages, trying to read and trying to write. Not many are particularly better than the other so they’re willing to help out friends who do not understand but they never tease each other. In fact, in the class, is a boy whose first language is not English, and none of the kids patronize him or make fun of him for not knowing words or what to say. They treat him as an equal and they love to hang out with him.
While the traditional sense of respect in the classroom is something I see daily in my classes, disrespect towards teachers or other students escalated from simply talking while the teacher is talking or giggling at a wrong answer. Sometimes you’ll see kids attack each other for being less confident or practiced in some subjects and group projects go significantly less smooth sometimes due to arguments and a lack of respect for the groupmates. Too often you’ll have a group with someone who does no work, and the rest of the group is stuck working on it for hours.
Similarly in adults, a lack of respect is seen in all aspects of life. From social to global, it is something severely overlooked. Socially, there’s still lots of prejudice, and a lack of respect targeted towards ethnicities, sexualities, genders and disabilities. People often associate their respect levels with someone “normal” or deserving in their minds of it. Those with differences all the time are shown a lack of respect, whether it be in a professional setting or even in their homes.
Aside from people, we as a society have shown a lack of respect towards global issues, the biggest one plaguing us being our environment. Overtime, our lack of respect or our constant need for convenience plagued our world in pollution, dumping and logging. We refuse to identify the real problem and consider it less deserving of our respect.
Arguably the most important or memorable thing many remember from childhood is when you learn sharing. Constantly reminded to kids by their parents, friends and teachers, sharing seems to be huge for us, and yet sometimes we forget that.
In class, the kindergarteners share tables, resources like crayons and pencils and books. While many of them may not always be comfortable with sharing, but the teachers try and introduce it slowly with little things like classroom books or toys. Kids don’t really understand the reasons behind sharing all the time, the most common thing you hear them ask is “why?” and as I have gotten older I get why. Not everything is yours and you should try and help others by being nice and letting them use what may have helped you.
Sharing in a sense stays relatively the same throughout adulthood, and many of the kids I have met are ok with sharing, less willing to put up a fight like some of the younger kids. But sharing is an issue we still see amongst some, but we hear less about it and take it less to heart versus instilling it into children. People sometimes won’t share ideas about problems they may be able to solve over money or may not want to share material things because they may not like the person. It’s something that in adulthood, looks extremely childish.
There’s so many things to pack in one year while teaching Kindergarten. Much of the stuff I haven’t thought about like character traits or clean up time fades in my mind overtime. However, some of these basic ideals are so crucial to childhood development that by forgetting them overtime, we almost revert back to square one. Ask yourself one day, besides reading and writing, what did you really learn in kindergarten?