That Still Apply Today
When my daughter Anja was in kindergarten, I recall her coming home one day and describing the process of the “color system”.
She said, “If we’re good, Mom, we stay on green. If we’re a little bit naughty, Mom, then we get a yellow card and that’s a reminder. If we’re a lot naughty then we get a red card and have to stay in for recess. And, if we’re really naughty after that, they call your mom.”
When she finished her solemn explanation, I recall looking at her with my hands on my hips and saying, “Well then, Anja, my expectation for you is that you stay on green.”
She looked up at me and said, “Well, duh, Mom, of course! That’s easy! You just don’t do bad stuff.”
The thing that Anja learned in kindergarten is to not do bad stuff. She is one of those people who can learn by watching others. She can see when others have tough times and observe their responses and consequences and then apply that to her own situation to perhaps make her own experience a bit easier.
Do you recall what you learned in kindergarten? When Anja was in kindergarten, I learned that she can learn by watching others. When I was in kindergarten -- and now we have to dig way back -- I did learn some things that influence me today. And many of our readers will recognize the truths from Robert Fulghum’s famous collection of essays (originally published in 1986 and quoted and parodied countless times since) Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten. You see, even as adults, we remember some simple lessons from the formative years of our childhood, like manners, kindness, sharing, and even some basic skills like reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic.
Here are five lessons that I learned in kindergarten that still apply today.
In kindergarten I learned to show respect for my teachers, the cafeteria staff, and even those that had been at school longer than I had, and who might therefore know more things than I did. I also learned to show respect for my fellow classmates. Respect was an expectation in kindergarten. We not only respected each other, but we also respected each other’s property. Even if you didn’t like the drawing someone else had done, you didn’t deface their work or toss their property into the trash can. We also respected the words that others said. We didn’t interrupt. Even if you didn’t want to listen to their story or thought your own was far more interesting, you didn’t talk over them, you raised your hand and waited your turn. We used our “inside voices” in the library so that if others were reading, we didn’t disturb their peace. We said please and thank you to the lunchroom staff, regardless of how we felt about laser pudding. We demonstrated respect.
Today, I continue to demonstrate respect for my neighbors as well as for those in positions of leadership. I continue to use courtesy when connecting with others and to be sensitive to those working around them so as not to disturb them with my exuberance. I continue to use “please” and “thank you”, and to let others finish speaking before I jump in.
Being kind is similar to showing respect, though it requires a little more “oomph”. It involves putting the other person first, and sometimes even giving up a little of what is ours. In kindergarten, this might look like letting the other person take a turn, or walking single file without talking in order to be kind to those learning around us. Making room at the lunch table for someone else or inviting someone to join in a game of four-square was about being kind, inclusive, and showing generosity.
Today, being kind is still about demonstrating thoughtfulness and generosity towards others. It’s giving people the benefit of the doubt rather than jumping to conclusions. It’s assuming positive intent rather than assuming the worst. It’s volunteering and participating in community service activities. And, when you have more than you need, it’s taking the time to share.
Tie Your Shoes
This one may sound a little bit silly, but if you haven’t learned how to tie your shoes by the time you get to kindergarten, it is one of the first things you learn. It’s a moment where you learn to help yourself, to take some actions on your own to prepare yourself for what is next. You start putting your shoes on for recess or for the start of the day. You start putting on your coat and mittens on for recess. The ability to self-sustain and to be self-sufficient became a thing we learned in kindergarten. Part of it was about being a responsible human and being able to care for yourself at the most basic level, but part of it was safety driven. Learning to tie your shoes meant you could set your own timeline for going outside and you didn’t have to wait for someone else to help you, but it also minimized the risk of tripping over your laces while you were running on the playground.
Today, some of us may prize self-sufficiency to a fault. While it’s important to be able to do things for yourself, and to take initiative, it’s also important to ask for and accept help from others. Nevertheless, there’s definitely benefit in the ability to detect where something can prevent us from falling, and take deliberate steps to avoid a stumble.
Communication Takes Practice
In kindergarten we learn to shape and form our letters. We learn to call things by name. We learn to label the colors red and yellow and green and blue. We learn to shape the letter A and B and C. It turns out that those aren’t just because someone somewhere declared those are the words we should use; by investing the time in communication, we are better able to connect with others. If you call it the red ball and I call it a yellow bouncer, we’ll have a hard time talking about the same thing and understanding that we want to play the same game on the playground. We practice communication for hours and hours in kindergarten. Somehow in kindergarten we learned that communication has a process, a formula, and that it takes a lot of work.
Today, if you know anything about me by now, you know that I value the effort, the discipline, the practice, and the improvement of communication to help us be more effective together.
Learning is Fun
Kindergarten classrooms are designed to create a lifelong love of learning. They’re designed to make a child want to learn, want to expand their horizons and broaden their knowledge base. And, if done right, if we can hold onto that joy from kindergarten, we can love learning, and maybe even share that love with others..
Today, I am supremely grateful to Mrs. Pat Spencer who taught my kindergarten class all those years ago for instilling a lifelong love of learning.
There are countless lessons that we learned in kindergarten, but we rarely realize how much of what we learned in our formative years actually impacts us and our interactions with others today. What else did you learn in kindergarten, and how has that knowledge shaped you into who you are and how you view the world today? Or what did you learn in kindergarten, that you might have forgotten or haven’t been using lately, that’s worth remembering now? Chime in on social media and share your stories!