My Day in Kindergarten

On our way to the library at Irwin Park...single file
Having recently read an article about a teacher who decided to spend two days shadowing students so she could experience first hand what it was like to be in grade school today (click here for story)I decided to undertake a similar challenge.  As a Director of Instruction with the West Vancouver School District, I wanted to find a way to become more closely connected to the work happening in classrooms across the district.  Of course I get to visit schools regularly, but the idea of being student for a day (or even part of a day) seemed like a great way to jump into my new role and gain some powerful insights in a way that was non-threatening. With this in mind, I sent the following email out to our Principals:

Hello there,

You will recall that I mentioned my plan to get into classrooms and be "student for a day." I am hoping you might forward my request to teachers you think might be interested in having me come join in a cool lesson or activity at some point this year.  This is not intended to be a formal observation, but is instead a way for me to  experience first hand some of the great things happening in our schools.  I promise to tweet or blog nice things as a way to share with our broader community. 


I had no idea what to expect. My first invitation came quickly: 

Hi Sean,

[My principal] mentioned today that you were hoping to be a student for a day. I'd like to formally invite you to join my Kindergarten class in the library next Thursday...We'd love to have you join us if you're available!

Thanks! Robyn 

You should understand that prior to my Director role, my most recent experience was an eight year run as a high school Principal. In other words, I was jumping into the deep end. Just the way I like it.  So, here it is -  my day in Kindergarten.

Student for a Day
Project: Irwin Park Kindergarten Class - Library 
Topic: The Missing Mitten Mystery / "Letters"  - upper and lower case

I could feel the excitement in the air as Ms. Evans, the librarian, came to get us. You see, we were going to the library, and the library, if you don't already know, is a big deal when you are in Kindergarten (ok, libraries and bookstores are still some of my favorite places). Despite the obvious energy we all felt, we managed to walk calmly and quietly down the hall (see photo evidence above).  Once inside the library, we gathered at the carpet. There were some cool cushions and bean bag chairs as well, and Ms. Evans had a system for who would sit there this day.  Unfortunately, I wasn't one of them.  But that was ok. No special treatment necessary.  If this was the price of being student for a day, so be it! I might be a forty-something year old male, but I was determined to sit criss-cross apple sauce if it killed me (actually it did kill me...I managed to sit at the carpet, but could not pull off the the criss-cross apple sauce... Yoga lessons may be in order). 

At the carpet, Ms. Evans shared a "published" collection of the students' artwork. The artwork was a follow up to a story students heard earlier in the week called "The Mitten" by Jan Brett. Appropriately, the students had been tasked to draw a picture inside of the outline of a mitten. Their young imaginations were unbridled: there were rainbows and whales and dragons and all kinds of things inside the mittens. And they were proud to have their page shared with the whole class.

Today, we would get to hear another story about mittens. This one was a mystery: "The Missing Mitten Mystery" by Steven Kellogg.  The students loved this story! They were invited to ask questions and to wonder aloud at times while it was being read.  The engagement was high!  

When the story was finished, our teacher, Ms. Evans, gave us each a laminated paper mitten that had a capital letter on it.  Mine was "W."  Then we had our own sort of mystery to solve.  We had to go and find the matching mitten that was hidden somewhere in the library.  The other mitten, of course, would have the lower case letter printed on it.

I was the last person to find my matching mitten...seriously. But in my defence, these were obviously extremely smart kids. Once all the mittens had been found, we gathered at the carpet one more time.  We took turns holding up our mittens while pronouncing the corresponding letter sound, followed by a word that began with the said letter.

I found the match...finally

The class demonstrated once again that they really knew their stuff; only a couple of minor corrections were required.  And then finally, when we could hardly wait longer, we were set free to go choose a book.  The look of pure joy on the faces of my fellow students was a sight to behold!  If Ms. Evans had said that everyone was going to receive a lifetime supply of Skittles, their young faces could not have looked happier!  

I had a sudden flashback to my own primary years, and remembered the feeling very well - all the shelves and the book covers to explore, all the titles and topics and illustrations.  The search for the right book is a true quest, and one that usually results in a find.  A good book is a treasure.

So, after my day in Kindergarten, let me leave you with a few more take aways:

  • The library is a magical place and a teacher librarian can play a key role in fostering a love for reading and for books.
  • Primary teachers are extremely organized and design elaborate, highly engaging lessons.
  • Students come to us innately curious!  They love stories and love to share.  We want to keep this.   
  • Young imaginations are often the best imaginations.
  • Sometimes even a dragon or a rainbow can fit inside a mitten! 

Thanks to Robyn Evans at Irwin Park for the great opportunity!  I am off to Google Yoga lessons.


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