‘All I needed to know I learned in kindergarten’
Although most of us may not remember who wrote ‘All I needed to know I learned in kindergarten’ or when it was published, most have heard the expression and very likely understand its basic meaning.
Last week, as I had the privilege of seeing my 5 year old granddaughter climb aboard the big yellow school bus to begin her journey as a kindergarten student at Francestown Elementary School, the title of Robert Fulghum’s book of essays first published in 1988 popped into my head. And as a result, I thought some of its basic tenets were well worth revisiting — especially after seeing the look of joy, wonder, and excitement on my granddaughter’s face as she waved and blew a kiss good-bye from her window seat.
“All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm milk and cookies are good for you.
Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup- they all die. So do we.
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned- the biggest word of all- LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those terms and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all- the whole world- had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
An excerpt from, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum
Although each of these prescriptions for living may seem trite and trivial in our ever changing and fast paced world, there are certainly some life lessons to be learned as we and the members of a new District Study Committee embark on yet another school year filled with the uncertainty and controversy within the ConVal School District as enrollment declines and costs escalate.
First and foremost, “Share everything.” We have limited resources so let’s figure out the best way to distribute them fairly.
Second, “Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.” Or maybe even better yet- and because we are all adults — think before you speak. Choose your words carefully so we can resolve these issues together.
Third, “Play fair.” We all know that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”- so how about each of us uses our special talents and gifts to make our district a great place to learn without the artificial boundaries set up by town lines. Honestly, no child is going to get a lesser education from going to school with kids from another town if indeed our resources are distributed equitably — and maybe, just maybe, each child might benefit in ways as yet unexplored by ridding ourselves of the restraints imposed by the Articles of Agreement.
Fourth, “Flush.” Let us not misconstrue “flush” with “throwing out the baby with the bath water.” Literally speaking, we all know that “flushing” gets rid of waste we don’t need. So let’s look into that portion of the equation as we address and explore options to better utilize our finite resources.
Fifth, “When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.” Watching out for traffic usually consists of looking both ways. Looking both ways may be further extrapolated into listening to other points of view with an open mind so you don’t get squished by living your life with blinders on. Remember when the world was full of new and exciting things to learn and explore and enjoy? Why not give it a shot — but with an adult twist so we keep what is good and build from there?
Sixth, “LOOK”. Could be we need to look backwards and forwards as well as side to side — and then we might begin to ask ourselves how the Articles of Agreement are working for the district at this point in time; as well as how parts of it may impact our future goal of becoming a high performing district. We might be pleasantly surprised if we look at the whole as well as the individual parts to help us gain a fresh perspective.
Seventh, Let us not forget to “WONDER”! If we forget to wonder, then we are destined to remain stagnant and never grow to our full potential as we resign ourselves to staying for all time in those white Styrofoam cups. If we cease to wonder we stop learning — and had we stopped learning we would have never discovered how horrid those Styrofoam cups are for our environment. And if we do not wonder, then as educators and parents and grandparents, we fail our children as we force them into an artificial environment in which some of them will never fit or be comfortable — anywhere that is but in that white Styrofoam cup.
Eighth, Balance. “Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day.” Let’s construct an educational environment, curricular and extracurricular programs that not only allow our children to learn and think and work every day, but which also encourage them to be creative by utilizing their unique talents and special gifts.
Parenting, educating, and guiding our children to achieve their full potential is absolutely and indubitably not a spectator sport nor is it one size fits all. To suggest that the voters think this, or that the voters think that, is what we educators call, Assumptive Teaching. And none of us should ever assume that those whose voices are loud and clear speak for the rest without first looking, listening, wondering, and learning- because to do so assumes that the silent majority is silent because they agree with their more vocal counterparts. If we continue to try to fit each square peg into a round whole we lose what makes us stronger over time. We may indeed whittle and wear away the differences to make everyone fit into the same mold but at what cost?
So my advice for any who care to listen is to find ways to engage more people in our educational process. We need not be a selectman, school board or ad hoc committee member, or paid professional of the vast educational community- sometimes merely by becoming more informed we are able to contribute greatly to the discussion of where we go from here.
“Without even realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always ‘there’, who can be relied upon in small, important ways. People who teach us, bless us, encourage us, support us, uplift us in the dailiness of life. We never tell them. I don’t know why, but we don’t. And, of course, we fill that role ourselves. There are those who depend on us, watch us, learn from us, take from us. And we never know. You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think.”
Sooooo…even if you are like me, and enjoy milk and cookies in the afternoon with your grandkids after taking that power nap, you might be much more important to them than you ever imagined- so be sure you model the behaviors you hope they learn more often than those you hope they don’t! And don’t ever forget that each and every one of us has something to offer- and who knows, maybe something you learned in kindergarten might well be of benefit to one of our ConVal students and help that youngster achieve his or her full potential!
Deb McGrath lives in Francestown.