The K World
I read the little ones a picture book. When I turn a page, they edge closer; almost creeping into my lap. By the middle of the story, there are fingers on my ankle, checking out my second skin of black stockings. Flashing a double page illustration to the children, most look up with Disney sized eyes, taking it in. One tiny girl pats the velvet of my dress and I change positions in the chair. Another page; she keeps on petting. Two others budge up, resting chins on my knee. I haven’t taught this group before; it’s a little disconcerting, but I don’t want to spoil a time when they’re focused on a fairy tale by moving them away.
As we reach the happy ending, I get calls to read it again. The students crowd in so tight, I have nowhere to go and can’t step out of the tub chair. I’m surrounded by a sea of arms and legs and shining faces still flushed after running around outside. As the kids squirm contentedly on the floor, I can’t even move the feet that have been touched up and tickled through sheer gauze for the last few minutes.
Sometimes when I read, a little one might fall asleep. Chest rising and falling, they wake disorientated. One who might have been a holy terror, racing about all recess and impossible to keep still might now look angelic, peering about unsure of where they are. Despite my protests, their classmates can’t resist poking them while they come to.
In break time, one boy’s hand is crushed underfoot. He screams as though he’s dying. His chubby fingers are puffed up pink and I hold him upright in case he topples. Through a thin blue shirt, I feel his heart pound so fast I’m afraid it will pop out of his chest. I help him to the bubblers. Cooling the hand with running water, he lets it go floppy and visibly relaxes. His mates converge to assess the injury and be the well-intentioned busybodies they love to be. Within another minute they’re chatting, so I walk to another area, another group. Looking back four minutes later, the same boy is bounding over the grass at full speed with maximum volume. His sore hand forgotten he’s happy again, as it should be.
During scripture, four boys bawl because they weren’t chosen to play the part of Lazarus in a dodgy re-creation of the Bible story. These are boys who’ve found it impossible to stay seated anytime this morning. K Wrigglers! Given the role of a grievously sick man, who gets even sicker before dying and being miraculously brought back to life, I fear they would not have given a convincing performance. Yet the howls continue.
Lazarus’ sister and mother have a laughing fit when he finally kicks the bucket. It’s a debacle. Still, I can’t help smiling when the loudest singer in the room projects her voice to the ceiling without realising she’s tone deaf. After the lesson, I feel the scripture ladies must indeed be saints to keep coming back to such a gig week after week. For their sufferance, they may well deserve a place in heaven.
Kindergarten children believe in their own realm; trusting that a single Band-Aid has healing powers. Flexible, they can squeal and scream, laugh, roll and recover instantly when distracted. They can parade about like superheroes and then be the saddest, most vulnerable being you’ve ever met a moment later. They move up and down and sideways, all while looking around at a person behind them. They miss their mums. They want it all, but not what you want them to do. Their dreams come true every time they play. Embracing joy, they cram as much fun into each hour as possible. And watching them you feel that almost anything is possible.
These children are the stuff of life and their potential is boundless. Four seasons and all weather in one short school day. Yin and yang, they cover every different emotion I can think of, and then add some more into the mix to confound me completely. All at once ten students cry: ‘I need help.’ ‘I can’t write that.’ ‘I can’t do it.’ I toddle over to realise they can do it seamlessly. Their work is wonderful; they just need reassurance and praise. When complimented, they get back to work with new vigour. Chests puffed out like peacocks they’re proud to be a clever one. The kids who do need help want to work independently. Going it alone, they often do it wrong, but that’s part of learning too. I respect them.
In the afternoon, my legs are hugged repeatedly. The effect of this is to make me feel guilty for being a Dragon Teacher, demanding they do as asked while I frown and raise my voice. There’s a nasty head-butting incident for no reason other than they didn’t look where they were going. Eyeglasses are thrown, as are marker pens; someone even spits at another’s face. Ugh.
There is no concept of personal space as so many kids trip over each other it’s ridiculous. There are too many tears and toilet stops and feeling so sick some can’t lift their heads off the carpet. Turn around to check on them after writing an office sick note and they’re up at their desks working well again. Some K’s are worn out, others are fully charged heavy duty batteries that can’t stop themselves fidgeting or playing with some innocuous bit of fluff on the floor.
A black beetle has unwittingly crawled into the classroom. (Poor bug!) They want to see it, some want to stomp on it or examine it like a scientist. Others screech out noises which mean they are revolted and fascinated at once. Trying to keep the K’s on track is sending me spare. I take charge, of the unsuspecting beetle at least, freeing it in order to continue our afternoon work on Kitchen Safety. Meantime, the children have forgotten the perils of hot stove tops and are enjoying a rigorous dialogue about creepy crawlies.
Almost three o’clock, I’m eager for the bell when I witness some extraordinary kindnesses. I glimpse the best of humanity as friends huddle around a child who’s hit her head on the base of a giant TV. There are cuddles and condolences, hugs and tissues thrust at the wet face. While her chin wobbles in shock, two girls take a side each and massage shoulders. With all the love in the room, I’m almost superfluous as I gently rub her head, smoothing back hair braided so neatly for school photo day. My faith in the future is temporarily restored. How lucky am I to be a casual teacher here?
They are part fairy sprites, part monsters and partly the sweetest beings on the planet. They are enchanting and very hard not to like, especially the naughty ones. They have more verve and vivacity than any adult. The K World revolves around the bright shining star they make of themselves each day. They are more fully themselves than they will ever be again. They are Kindergarten and their topsy-turvy world rocks.