By the time I began teaching kindergarten, I expected this to be my life-long vocation. However, I quit teaching to have two more babies, and when I was ready to return, there were no openings. So I went back to running an office, as I’d done before my five years as a kindergarten teacher. I planned to go back to teaching, but never did; however, I have wonderful memories of the delightful kindergarten children I had the good fortune to teach. They said many delightful things, some of which I’d like to share.
The first incident doesn’t involve the children. It happened during my very first orientation week. As I sat in an auditorium listening to welcoming talks, I was cutting out nametags for my kindergarten children. The gentleman in front of me kept turning around and looking at what I was doing. I wished he’d mind his own business. I was hearing everything that was being said and if I wanted to use the time to get my nametags cut out, that was nobody’s business. If he didn’t approve, too bad! Then the gentleman turned around once more and said, “Could I cut some?”
On my first day as a kindergarten teacher, I was introduced to the vivid imagination of Michael. He was manipulating a key game and said to me, “Mrs. McKinney, I’ve locked you inside this box.” I protested, saying, “Michael, I need to watch the children. Please let me out.” He responded, “The only way you can get out is if I turn you into a mouse.” I agreed to this, so he waved his hands back and forth in front of my face and in a mysterious voice he said “You are a mouse.” As I continued on my way, I felt a presence behind me. I turned to see Michael stealthily creeping toward me, saying “Meow!”
We were exchanging valentines when Randy came to me and said “I don’t deserve valentines.” I responded, “Of course you deserve them, Randy.” After he persisted, he was finally successful in conveying his message. What he meant was that he didn’t observe Valentine’s Day. His religion forbade it. On the other hand, he would often arrive at class holding a small gift for me – some plants in a ceramic planter or a cut flower, for example. This was in keeping with his religion, which wasn’t against the giving of gifts – it was opposed to observing special days.
During a parent-teacher conference, I was told that Bobby came home from school one day, very excited because he had a story to tell his parents. He said, “Mrs. McKinney was really disappointed today. She had to put a kid in ‘The chair’ ‘cuz he was bad.” His mother responded, “Oh, that’s a shame. Who was the kid?” Bobby’s shoulders began to droop and he stared at the floor as he muttered “Me.”
Easter was coming, so the children were going to make bunnies by pasting various shapes onto a large piece of construction paper. Before turning them loose on the project, while they watched, I created a bunny on an easel. After a step-by-step demonstration, my project was complete. As I looked it over, I said, “I guess I’ll call my bunny done.” Brian responded with “That’s a funny name for a bunny.”
When I asked Donna to go next door to borrow a paper punch, she queried “How do you drink paper punch?”
I didn’t teach kindergarten very long, but long enough to know that kids really do say the darndest things.
Image: Vintage Children’s School Book Illustration “Stories about Linda and Lee by Eleanor Thomas Ginn and Co. 1960