Kindergarten Demystified

One of the most unsettling things for a stay-at-home parent is that once your children go off to school, you no longer know every single thing that happens to them. Suddenly they have all these rituals that have nothing to do with you; you don’t even know what they are. That’s okay with me; I’ve always been happy with the idea that the hard work of teaching falls largely on someone else’s shoulders. Still, the void of knowledge of exactly how Alex passes his days is…well, unsettling.

I thought it would be worse with Julianna, because she can’t tell me what she does at school. But power of speech doesn’t really help. When we ask Alex about school, mostly we get a blank look. His school rituals seem so utterly ordinary to him that he doesn’t even recognize that they’re different. And so, despite avid parental interest, Kindergarten has remained a mystery.

Until now. Because yesterday the little ones and I spent forty minutes in the classroom.

They began with a lunch count census (Cheese pizza, please; nothing, please; milk, please), which Mrs. O. entered into the computer, a process that was interrupted by the principal coming over the intercom for morning announcements. This mostly consisted of a pointed reminder that the uniform code requires white and navy socks, not black, and most especially not patterned!

Now, it’s one thing to see Alex act like a five-year-old. To see a whole classroom full of children do it? Hysterically funny! When the principal said, “If your teachers see you wearing any socks other than white or navy blue, they will tell you to take them off,” what do you think every child in the room did? Yes, as if responding to an irresistible force, every one of them pushed back from their tables and checked their socks! Suddenly the room was full of anxious voices and bids for their teacher’s attention. It was so stinking cute, I can’t even type it without laughing. One little girl was terrified because the heel on her sock was pink.

Announcements wound down and the kids said the pledge of allegiance and a very long prayer I have never heard (me, the Catholic nerd!), but which they rattled off by rote. Then lunch count resumed, and Mrs. O. passed out “z” worksheets. By now, Julianna had found a tub full of books and was happily entertaining herself. Nicholas spied an empty chair at a table and made himself at home there, filching a pencil from the boy on his right and crayons from the girl to his left. I didn’t have to watch either of my little ones, they were behaving so well. So I got to observe another interesting ritual. “All right,” said Mrs. O., “children at the red tables may go to the restroom.”

“It’s blue table day,” protested someone. “We did red yesterday.” And everyone in the class looked at the board. I looked but had no idea what they were looking for.

Mrs. O. also looked at the board, then said in her gentle way, “I’m pretty sure I erased it and rewrote it this morning. Red tables.”

The red table kids got up and headed for the restrooms…except Alex, who was wholly engrossed in drawing a crucifix in his morning journal, presumably in honor of Lent. (I’ve never, ever seen him draw a crucifix before. We throw away dozens of Batman, Superman, Iron Man, and now Toothless pictures in this house.) Suddenly he realized he was sitting alone at a table, and he looked up. “Oh, is it red tables’ turn?” And he looked at the board.

All right, that’s it! I looked more closely and finally noticed that the date was written in red. Upon such small things do a Kindergartener’s world turn! 🙂

Well, there was more, but I’m at risk of boring everyone to tears, so I’ll sign off for the day. It was fun, a different kind of Motherhood Moment.