Even though we had two days off this week and a two hour “snow” delay (in South Carolina, if you get a flurry you get a two hour snow delay), I actually managed to get some real teaching done in my kindergarten class. I had expected major distractions just because of all the “off” time and the excitement about “snow.”
As I approached the cafeteria on Thursday, I was feeling pretty good about the lessons I had taught and the learning I supposed my children had done. I was just about to comment to my assistant how I felt and congratulate her on a job well done. I was ready for some “high-fives!” At the very same moment, I heard shouts of glee ring out from the mouths of my most astute little cherubs, “There’s pink milk today!” The news spread like wild fire up and down the line I was so nobly leading to lunch. You see, “pink milk” is what they call the strawberry flavored milk that is served in our cafeteria on certain occasions. So much for all that keen teaching and learning I’d been gloating about.
These children brought me back to reality. Life isn’t really all about the formal lessons we learn; it’s more about how we apply them. Sure we’ve talked about the dairy food group and serving sizes, and nutritional values; but all they know is that today is a “pink milk day” and that’s what really makes a great day.
The true test of my teaching will come one day when there’s not enough pink milk for everyone. How will my children react? Will they cry? Will there be pushing and shoving to get to the milk box first? Will anyone give up their pink milk for a friend? Then later in their lives, when they’re out in the “big” world, and the corporate “pink milk” is in short supply how will they react? Will my teaching today prepare my children for such an event in their futures? Only if I am truly doing my job which is to use every experience to teach a life lesson.
I’ve worked in several schools and in several different grade levels but I’ve never been more fully aware of my goal as an educator than I am in my kindergarten class.
Robert Fulghum, author of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” summed up all of life’s important lessons in this list of guidelines: “Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup-they all die. So do we. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK.”
Even when I think I’ve done a miraculous thing and imparted “knowledge” to my children, they remind me that the best lessons are not from the books. True learning is lived. So I rejoiced with my children, “There’s pink milk today!”