There was always something special to me about teaching kindergarten. While I didn’t always teach kindergarten, I did spend the majority of my teaching career there. I would hear things from other teachers like, “It takes a special person to teach kindergarten,” or “I don’t know how you do it, I could never teach ‘the littles’.” Yet, I loved it! There was nothing more exciting than seeing those tiny five year olds walking in on their first day of school. Granted, many had gone to preschool or daycare but kindergarten was, for most of them, the first time at the “big” school. To many people, their image of me was spending my day playing, singing, and wiping noses. I can’t deny that some of my day was spent doing that, but what so many didn’t know was I also spent my day allowing children to have reading and mathematical experiences. It may have not looked like that to the untrained eye, but that is the hidden beauty of a kindergarten classroom.
This rewarding and hidden beauty is what kept me teaching kindergarten for as long as I did. It is also what made me so happy when I was told that I would be working with kindergarten teachers as a Research Associate here at the AIMS Center. One thing that I have learned and come to value more than ever is giving students time to have meaningful experiences with math, even ones that extend outside the classroom. My past blog posts have touched on many of the things I did in kindergarten this past fall while I was implementing everything I have learned here at the AIMS Center. Things like Stef the Moose, Measurement Center, Linear Calendar, and Shared Writing all allowed my students to have meaningful mathematical experiences that I could then leverage in my small group instruction. Again, to the untrained eye all of these activities or centers may have not seemed like a lot in isolation, but together and with the knowledge I have gained by reading the work of Les Steffe, I was able to see students grow more than I could have imagined.
I invite you to take a look back at my past blog posts that I mention above. They trace the path of my journey this past year at AIMS. I know that the knowledge I have gained has made me a much more powerful educator. I hope they inspire you to try something new in your classroom and give you an opportunity to listen to your students more carefully. Our students have so much to teach us about math. We as educators need to listen and know when to simply guide them along their way.