December 17, 2012
Teachers Talk - Four walls, twenty-one students, and one teacher
Samantha Dingman, Teacher, Greaves Adventist Academy, Montreal, QC

I entered the classroom a week before school was due to open. The plan: to set up all the pretty posters, arrange the desks, roll out the new carpet and make sure all the new games and activities were in orderly bins ready for students to use. Within hours I had what seems to be an endless list of things that needed to be purchased at the local Dollarama and an even longer list that needed to be accomplished once I arrived at home with the help of my color printer. In the following days I kept praying that God would help me to be ready for the 22 bright-eyed students that were scheduled for their first day of Kindergarten. I prayed that He would guide and direct me, the new teacher that was fresh off the assembly line. On the first official day of classes I said to myself, well let’s see if my four years of University properly prepared me for this new phase in life.
 
To be completely honest, the first three days were a complete nightmare. No one warned the “newbie” how completely raw these students would be. Each new lesson plan now needed to be immediately rethought. I lacked the prior knowledge that these adorable little four or five year olds had no school experience. Every small task was a completely new experience for them such as raising their hand or standing in a line and I learned very quickly that we take these things for granted. These precious little students of mine had no idea how classroom courtesy worked and I soon realized I was to teach them everything starting from square one. I was told in my university classes that kindergarten and grade one were all about learning the basics. However, in all those pricey classes that I sat through, someone failed to mentioned that basics actually meant BASICS of everything within the school environment.
 
My planning quickly went from big lofty goals to small minute tasks. In my head I would pray, Lord Jesus, please let me use all my great ideas somewhere down the line with these students. For the first three months, every day was a new adventure and brought a new situation that needed to be dealt with. Some days I would leave the school wondering, what exactly will those students be telling their parents they learned today. I couldn’t keep them focused long enough to get through a story...too bad, though, because it was a great story.
 
Nap time is always a fascinating time in my day. I look forward to the one hour, which ends up being more like 50 minutes, of silence that is found within the four walls of my classroom. The students, through time and many arguments, have found that staying silent and resting is the best choice at this time. When I look back on the first day of nap time it was interesting to say the least. Compelled to answer 19 questions of ‘why do we have to nap’, ‘I’m not tired’ and ‘I can’t sleep it’s too noisy’, I thought the task of keeping 19 students quiet for 50 minutes was something I would never accomplish. However, I have learnt that extrinsic motivation works wonders when dealing with five-year-old children. With constant supervision, chocolate, and a very stern voice, all of my students are now able to evaluate their behavior during the ‘quiet time’ of our day. I sit here writing this exact paragraph with minimum interruptions thinking if only teenagers could remember the lessons on behavior they learned in Kindergarten.
 
The teaching of Kindergarten is all about basics. Basic writing, reading, reasoning, mathematics, arts, rhythm, lining up, raising our hands, speaking, listening, sharing, independence, dependence and so much more. It is mind boggling to realize the different aspects that I, as a teacher, must cover in a day. What will these 5-year-old minds retain at the end of the day? My constant request for silence, the demand to put your feet on the ground because they don’t belong in the air, the songs that were animated and educational, the smiles and friendships they are creating with their peers, the morals that are slowly being instilled in their minds. At the end of ten months, what will  my students remember from their time within the walls of my classroom?
 
Those first three days back in September were brutal. At the end of the week, I rejoiced with the simple fact that I had been finally able to get them to line up single file and do so quietly. I think this is the basic that I must remember, to rejoice with each tiny accomplishment. If I judge the quality of a certain day in accordance with the final goal in June, I will certainly be a very discouraged teacher. I have to remember that each little accomplishment must be celebrated. Each little task learned, whether it be learning to wash our hands with hot water and soap before snack or to associate the phonemic sound with the appropriate letter, deserves to be celebrated. Every aspect of learning to be independent and every basic of educational learning is a huge accomplishment for these young minds. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9