Little Stuffs in Kindergarten

There are a thousand moments of growth in your students when you teach.   In kindergarten, they are sometimes dramatic. The first time all your students write the numbers facing the correct direction. The first time they write a sentence. The first time they realize that adding and subtracting are the same thing.

I know it is technically not a metamorphosis, but it feels like it.  These little humans growing into a skin of learning which will carry them the rest of their lives.

Many of these moments pass by so quickly, neither I nor my students can account for them.  But, when I can measure them, time seems to stop.  A tear might fall.  A celebration dance might be done.  A prayer might be offered in the greatest gratitude and awe.

This week we have shared in four such holy occasions.


i

Swings are wild things.  They let you fly to Antarctica and back.  But for the child who jumps off, dizzy from spinning and too close to the next propeller, they show their dangerous side.  Two of my littles crashed.  One jumped on the monkey bars, but one needed some cuddles.

I make it a practice, or at least, I try to make a practice of praying for emergencies, the big ones and the small ones.  For some reason, I didn't this time.  But, on the other side of the playground I heard a tiny voice, "Let's pray."  And another tiny voice lifting up this wounded child to the Perfect Father.

ii

From the moment I introduced the alphabet, I have been talking about God giving us His Word so that we could know Him.  In fact, when we draw pictures of the characteristics of God, my students will sometimes write the alphabet.  He is the A-Z Himself.  He is the Word Himself.

We have spent the last seven months memorizing The Word, as songs that get caught in our heads and in our hearts.  But, this week my students were ready.  They were ready to see The Word as words. They were ready to break it apart and put it together again.   They were ready to see that they can read the Bible for themselves.




You alone are the LORD.  
You made the highest heavens
and all the starry host,
the earth and all that’s on it,
the seas and all that’s in them.  
You give life to everything,
and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

Nehemiah 9:6

iii

Teaching handwriting has fallen out of favor in most classrooms.  However, so many sweet gifts are lost when we loose the discipline.  That's what it is: a discipline.  A discipline and an art.  My student's love it.  They love the stillness of it.  They love the beauty of it.   A beautiful lowercase e?  Hours of precision.

And in these hours of writing and erasing, writing and erasing, a common refrain from my lips, and now theirs, speaks up.  "Working as if for the Lord..." For a month we wrote only a lower case c.  For a month.  That adds up to five hours of a lower case c.   Yes, we made it out of clay. Yes, we drove a car, making a left hand c turn.  But five hours of a lower case c would drive anyone crazy.

Unless you were learning to do the right thing when no one was looking.  Unless you were learning to honor God even when you knew that the whiteboard would be erased, the practice lines put in the recycling bin.  

Unless that when you needed to keep going even though you were growing bored, you reminded yourself and your classmates that God is the audience of your diligence.


iv


Our little lunch table is a perfect place for my littles to hear big stories.  We have a book of fairy tales, an old one, with old stories.  These aren't the Disney ones.  These aren't the pretty ones.  These aren't the quick and easy ones.  These don't even have pictures.

I've never taught fairy tales before, but my mind was changed last fall*.  A change that not only made me know how to teach fairy tales, but one that convinced me I had to.  And my kids are eating them up.

With Rapunzel, I talked about how we are locked in a tower of our sin.  With Sleeping Beauty, I talked about how Jesus is coming for us.  And now, there is Beauty and the Beast.

This version is a beast of a story.  Nine pages.  Tiny print. No pictures.  Very different from Belle and her yellow dress.

The father has picked a rose for Beauty, but in doing so, has earned the wrath of the Beast.  He must die for this trespass, or sacrifice a daughter.  When I read this, I heard a chorus of gasping, and I looked up.  Bright eyes, not appalled - but excited, looked back at me.  "What does that make you think of?" I asked.  "Jesus!"  I didn't have to tell them.

This version of the story with big non-kindergarten words wraps their minds with a child-like understanding of salvation.  One that is non-kindergarten.  One that is eternal.

Let us not mistake the learning and growing of five-year-olds as being just play.  They are playing with real things, the things that will carry them and sustain them through bumps and bruises that baindaids can't heal.

This is what we mean when we talk about truth, goodness, and beauty.  These are the little stuffs that aren't so little.




* This podcast changed my teaching.  If you have little ones anywhere in your heart's realm, you should listen:

Why Fairy Tales are Not Optional: A Conversation with Angelina Stanford



Comments

Sandra Ellis said…
Thought about you today as I made lemonade pie with my four year old. My recipe book identifies it as coming from the Houk family kitchen and I remember making it with you in our dingy little apartment kitchen in Joplin. I have no other contact info for you, so I just posted here. Hope all is well with you. Much love, Sandy

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