This post originally appeared as a guest post at Apples and ABC's.
On my outdoor, Southern California school campus, the sixth grade teachers don't really mix with the Kinder teachers. I mean, they're lovely people and fabulous teachers. We know they're doing good work within their colorful walls, farm bulletin boards, princess days, and hot chocolate centers. We see their cute laminating in the work room and occasionally, in the lounge, get to pour half and half in our coffee simultaneously. Sadly, the school day sucks us in and we're lucky if we catch a glance of the back of their head during recess. But even though our interactions are limited during a normal week, we are fully aware of the benefits we reap as sixth grade teachers -- benefits that are a direct result of some major Kindergarten awesomeness. Here are sixth important things my class o'tweens learned from you.
How to sit in one spot with others.
It's something we take for granted in the upper grades, but having 29 students who know how to sit in one spot for certain parts of the day is invaluable. I know it required an incredible amount of energy to make sitting in one spot...well, fun, but you somehow managed it! You sang songs, did chants, awarded points -- and now I can use my math time focusing on solving ratio word problems without kids who randomly skip over to the window. Thank you!
How to walk quietly in the hallway.
Believe it or not, the 'bubble in your mouth' trick doesn't go to far with 12 year olds. Shocking, I know. That's why I'm so glad you spent your mornings walking past the office with big-cheeked 5 year olds. You happily prance and explain, "Keep that bubble in your mouth, friends!!" They smile and watch their friends to see if anyone will lose that invisible bubble. They're engaged and excited. And now, I have a class who can walk quietly by the library without so much as a concern. They get it! So thanks.
How to be curious.
If you're not chasing leprechauns, growing butterflies, making clouds out of shaving cream, or hatching chickens, you're up to something that sparks those little minds. Your students are full of wonder and you cash that in like a Vegas pro. You show them how fun it is to question and explore, to discover and experiment. It catches like a fire and when my sixth graders are tasked with building an earthquake-resistant structure, they are eager and dedicated. They know the journey will lead to something spectacular. They've done that before.
How to get along.
I know that recess drama can get you down. Who stole this ball, who tattled on whom. Where's my special pencil and so-and-so won't let me go down the slide. These experiences, while frustrating for you, have ultimately helped these littles navigate the complex social structure of the recess yard. I know you spent a lot of time role-playing and practicing "what to say when you are mad", "how to be a good friend on the swings", and "why throwing sand at someone's face isn't a 'good' choice". But because of this work, work that you never get to fully witness the results of, I have a class of kids who can skillfully implement and execute an organized game of kickball completely tearless. Tearless! It's amazing.
That reading is magic.
Do you have any idea how much your over-emphasized renditions of Pete the Cat or Chrysanthemum have sparked a love of reading? You taught my kids that reading is fun, that reading is worthwhile. You taught them how to imagine the characters and "see" the story. You talked about the story, and showed them that stories open a whole new world where friends can experience an adventure together. Because of this, I don't have to fight to have students read 'The Road Not Taken' and discuss potential symbolism. I get the buy-in. They already know that those words are the page are magical because they saw it first hand. With you.
That school is a safe place for their hearts.
You are the ones who show our kids that school is not only a fun place, but a safe place where they can be loved as they are and where people care. And I know, usually it's easy to love a sweet almost-six year old who hugs you almost daily, but I also know that sometimes you're tired. But even still, you look in their eyes and listen to their 35th story of the day and you smile. So they learn that teachers can be trusted, that teachers love them. They come to you with their problems and you help. At five, it's a big deal. But at 11 3/4, it's huge. When my kids walk into my room on the first day of school, with worries about divorces or sick grandmothers, with an growing awareness about the world they already know I'm on their team. I do absolutely nothing, and they know I'm going to be there for them no matter what. You showed them that, and they remember.
Kindergarten teachers, you are appreciated. These little people learn some big things in your class.
Thank you for everything.