I tried to reassure my grandson that going to Kindergarten was no big deal. One of my assignments during my vacation was to accompany my youngest grandson, Joshua, and his father to orientation day at his new school. The Kindergarteners were to wear a yellow shirt to school that day, and I offered to wear my yellow golf shirt to help Joshua feel like he had a friend as he entered the room. I told him he could introduce me to his teacher as his twin brother, Billy. This strategy did not seem to console Joshua. In fact, the entire idea of having Grandpa Bill going to Kindergarten was adding to the pressure of the day. But, off we went, Joshua in his yellow shirt, a bag full of supplies in Daddy’s one hand, and Daddy’s other hand firmly grasping Joshua’s tiny twitching fingers.
Kindergarten. “Child’s garden.” When the term was first coined in 1870 by a German educator the goal was to provide a place where children would be nourished, like plants in a garden. (Source: Wikkipedia, “Kindergarten”) Joshua’s teacher turned out to be this pleasant young woman with a big smile and a soft voice. If you were casting a movie part for a Kindergarten teacher, this woman would be a perfect fit. I was very happy that this was one of the teachers providing nourishment to our little plant in his new little garden. Orientation began by “signing in” on an electronic whiteboard, where your name changed color on the board when you pressed it. I didn’t see a “No. 2” yellow pencil anywhere. Maybe it was a good thing Joshua hadn’t allowed me to be his twin brother after all. I am not sure I would have passed orientation. Another orientation task was to identify the place in the garden where one could “play house.” I spied this wooden house, opened up so you could move furniture around the rooms. Of course, this was the wrong answer, as the place one “plays house” was an entire corner of the room set up as a play kitchen. This was not his grandfather’s kindergarten.
I spent the rest of that day thinking about the millions of children heading off to the first day of school. And I thought about the thousands of teachers preparing classrooms and learning names and faces and getting ready to prepare kindergartners to become presidents and postal workers and pediatricians. Can there be a greater occupational joy than helping brand new plants flourish in a strange new garden? Can there be a greater responsibility than being the one of whom tiny mouths will utter, “teacher says…”? The nation’s future is about to, for the first and only time, walk into a “child’s garden”. Thankfully, there are teachers and a Teacher we can trust to nourish them.