Becoming QualifiedAs some of my readers will know, I was offered the job of teaching Junior Kindergarten a few days before school started in September, 2008. I had a couple of hours to think and pray about taking this position, but I accepted it with a sense of calling. I had never previously taught this age-group, outside of my own children, and none of my teaching courses dealt with students in the primary or pre-primary grades. However, God gave me the resources (patience, support from colleagues, good curriculum, a well-equipped classroom, etc.) that I needed to be successful. Sometimes we may feel we are out of our depth, as I did for that first month or so, but when we are following God's leading in our lives He will graciously help us obtain the qualities we need to complete the task.
Since Junior Kindergarten students have never been to school before, they do not have the kinds of expectations that older students may have. They are simply looking for an engaging place with children their age and a teacher who will help them with problems, read them stories and expose them to new things in God's wide world. When I first took on this teaching position I was worried that I would not measure up to the quintessential Kindergarten teacher, who I perceived would be more "fun," musical and huggy. What my students have taught me is that I will be accepted for being myself. I don't need to try to measure myself by stereotypes or other people.
Teachers want to help students connect what they already know with the new material they are introducing. What I have learned by teaching JK students is that young children naturally make these connections. That is why it is so easy for them to go off on tangents and lose focus. The connections they make between new information and their personal worlds are sometimes unanticipated! When a visiting parent demonstrated how to count to 10 in a foreign language (Serbian), the number eight sounded a little bit like "awesome," causing one student to burst into the theme song from The LEGO Movie, "Everything is awesome." These connections help our brains develop from infancy. Making connections comes naturally to children, and this capacity can be fostered by giving them opportunities to verbalize them, thereby processing their new learning.
Working with children of this age has given me a renewed sense of wonder at little things in Creation. Their eyes are open to small wonders, such as a gliding butterfly, the retelling of a Bible story and the opportunity to surprise someone with a kind deed. When I walk to and from my workplace from day to day, I try to appreciate the cardinal's call, the single shy trillium and the shapes of clouds in a similar way. Jesus commends child-like faith, but I'm sure it also includes child-like wonder.