By Yitzha Sarwono
Whenever I tell people that I am a kindergarten teacher, they always say “Wow, you are so lucky to be playing with children every day!” Well, that’s not all wrong, but if you think that what I do all day is holding hands and singing, then you need to step in my shoes for one day (or rather socks as I wear socks in the classroom).
Let me take you through a day in one of the first few weeks of this school year of my K1 class.
It was 7:45 in the morning. I was already in my Montessori classroom with materials ready to go and felt very excited and optimistic about the day, though the last few days had not been easy. Some of my four-year-old students started coming to the classroom. One girl who had been with us since the previous level entered with a beautiful smile, said hi to me and my assistant, and washed her hands before sitting on the carpet to play while waiting for the others. Some boys came in and started playing, too.
8 a.m., time to start class. As usual, I gathered the students on the carpet and started the lesson. As we began to pray, one more student came in. She didn’t enter though, she just kept standing by the door, with her backpack on and not letting go of the door handle. My assistant tried to persuade her to join us but she wouldn’t let go of the door. The girl screamed and started to cry so my assistant stayed with her as I tried to continue the class greetings. Another girl, who was already sitting on the carpet with the rest, didn’t like the fact that I asked them to jump to the song, so she started kicking and screaming. I tried to calm her down but then she kicked me and pulled my hair. Just then the administrator came in with two new kids, who were twins. They didn’t want their mom to leave them but she had to, so they started crying. I carried one of them in but the other pulled my hand and asked to be carried along, too. So there I was, sitting on the carpet, with both of the new kids on my lap, trying to start my presentation. I laid my mat and placed my model farm animals on it. One of the boys took the horse and started playing with it, and I couldn’t move fast enough to grab it back from him because I already had two children on my lap and my assistant was still trying to calm the tantrum girl down and the one who was still by the door. The 15-minute presentation dragged for much longer and didn’t finish in the end, though I somehow managed to present the topic.
After the failed presentation, we had some individual learning time which turned out to be a little chaos of its own. One kid was throwing around all of the rice from the bowl instead of spooning it from one bowl to another; another kid tore the paper out of one of the reading books because he loved the picture in it. The chaos had many other “activities” that can only be described as “not in the lesson plan.”
Then we headed off to the gym for some obstacle course time. Even though most kids wouldn’t do as we had shown them, some actually tried to perform the whole routine. After that we had snack time planned. I called my students in two by two to wash their hands, took their bags and eating mats, and set their tables to eat. We prayed before the meal and I showed them how to eat properly. Surprisingly, though they were very active and noisy during lesson, they were all behaving very well during snack time, even the crying, kicking, and sulking ones.
After snacks we had a Mandarin Chinese lesson, where my job was to help our teacher of Mandarin to maintain order in the classroom. But then it meant most kids would try to sit on my lap or at least close to me.
Finally, it’s time to go home. We said our pray, sang our goodbye song, and marched to be dismissed. My students were all smiling and some even hugged me and told me that they loved me. My hair was a mess, the two air-conditioners in the classroom couldn’t stop me from sweating because of all the chasing around, my T-shirt had food stains on it and was wet from tears, and I didn’t feel that I looked decent at all and was happy to catch a breath.
But guess what? I’d do it all over again the next day! Because the kids bring sunshine to my life and that’s why I know I’m lucky to be their teacher.