Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from Kindergarten Lunch Duty

The first week of school for an Instructional Coach is a bit different. Teachers are working to establish routines and procedures and so I did what most ICs do...plan, attend meetings, help with bus signs, console sad students, console sad mommies, and assist in the cafeteria. 

During lunch time. 
During KINDERGARTEN lunch time. 

I have been an elementary teacher for seventeen years. I have birthed babies and parented school-age children. I have worked in daycares, camps, and every other conceivable childcare field since I was 16 years old. I like kids. I am pretty good with kids. Yet, there is something scary special about kindergartners in the cafeteria during the first week of school. So naturally, I had to reflect on what I learned and find a parallel to my actual life. 

All I really need to know, I learned from Kindergarten Lunch Duty:

1. Assume NOTHING.
I have taught first grade for twelve years. There are things that first graders know how to do that I guess I assumed all children just come to school knowing. Wait your turn. Don't put orange chicken in his ear. Don't stomp on the unopened Cool Ranch Doritos bag. This is a lie. First graders know how to do things because kindergarten teachers are angels sent by God to earth to teach children how to function in a school setting. They also teach letters, sounds, math skills that used to be second grade, how to segment phonemes, how to listen to stories, how to share, how to read, and don't get me started on only getting twenty minutes of recess. They also teach the new kindergarten mommies and daddies how to hold it together while their babies are transitioning into big kids.

2.Don't take things that don't belong to you.
What do you mean, she ate your Oreos? You ate her Oreos? You may never eat someone else's Oreos. You may only eat the food that your family sent for you to eat, or that you bought for your lunch. I'm so sorry she ate your Oreos. I would be crying too if someone ate the Oreos that I was looking forward to eating in my lunch. Also, now I really want to eat Oreos.

3. Just because it's easy for adults, doesn't mean it's easy for kids.
I have school-aged kids, so I get the appeal of prepackaged lunch items. They make it way easier to pack the lunches in the morning. For the ADULT. The average kindergarten lunchbox contains approximately seven prepackaged foods. The average kindergarten child can open zero things independently. Whether it is because of emerging fine motor skills, not-yet-developed muscle tone, unwillingness, the splat factor (what I now call what happens when a five year-old attempts to open the little fruit cup thingys: applesauce, mandarin oranges, pineapple tidbits, fruit cocktail, etc.), it's just not going to happen. Other things I didn't realize needed tutorials: yogurt tubes, applesauce squeezers, milk cartons (someone hold me), any bagged item (chips, Pirate's Booty- hahahahaMrs.Taylorhesaidbootyhahahaha, Ziplock baggies, raisins, and I seem to have lost the will to remind myself of all the things so I'm stopping here). For about twelve minutes, I tried to be all Maria Montessori and teach the kids how to open the things. Yep. I know, I know...I see you laughing.

4.Clean up your own mess.
You would think this would be common knowledge. It is not. Probably because their little arms and hands and fingers are just so tired and sore from trying to open all the food. 

5. Lunchboxes are not weapons, hats, forts, or guns.
Oh, but they are. Sometimes it's on purpose. Sweetheart, put that down. She doesn't seem to like it when you put your lunchbox on her head. Mrs. Taylor, it's OK. I said she could put it on my head. Actually, it's not. Sometimes it's not on purpose. Ouch! When you swing your lunchbox around your head like that and it hits me in the shoulder, I don't like it. Will you hold it the right way so I don't get bumped, please? 

6. Kids are funny.
So funny. So, so, so funny. The kindergartners think I am the PE coach. Not in one hundred million years. They asked if I was the principal. Um, no. They asked my friend (our school counselor) if she was the camp counselor. Yes, kind of. They asked if she was the, "feelings lady." Pretty close. One asked me where I get all my nice forks from. Mrs. Taylor, I'm being so good today. Can I go home?

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten was originally written by Robert Fulghum over 25 years ago. The main points ring just as true for me now as I begin a new professional journey. The transition from the classroom to the PLC room to the lunchroom will continue to challenge me in unique ways, but as Fulghum stated, "And it is still true, no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together." 

I am so thankful that the brave teachers I work with and those that are teaching in schools all across this country are holding hands and sticking together. And I am so glad they are with me on this messy, exciting adventure.