I started my teaching career as a Kindergarten teacher in 1986. Now, 33 years later, I’ve promoted myself to 6th grade. This last week of school as I watch my 6th graders, age 11 and 12, they don’t seem so different than those 5 and 6 year tikes from years ago. I’m beginning to wonder what is age-appropriate.
I recall Kinders as being so joyful…until they aren’t and then they cry and/or hit. Somehow when a child’s height reaches 4 feet, tears aren’t acceptable and hands are to stay to themselves. Yet impulsive middle schoolers can forget this rule and forget their iPad and their tote bag and their library book and they never, ever seem to have a pencil.
I wonder if I enable middle schoolers’ behaviors. This year I constantly bought boxes of pencils at Staples. Why? I guess it is more important to me for my students to spend their time reading and writing and discussing and I never want the lack of supplies to get in the way of their participation and creativity. I never expected kinders to hold onto their supplies. The community table held the scissors and pencils and glue, all available when needed. Yet, just five years later, being responsible for your own tools somehow became a rule?
Last week as my last period students worked, the bell rang and all the students herded through the door. Then I looked around the empty room. Chairs not pushed in, lone markers and pencils scattered under desk. I recall when my own children were this age and so involved in their work, creating a 3-D model for science or cooking chocolate chip cookies on the weekend, they too would place so much effort into their work and leave a mess. I often acted as the street cleaner after the parade, cleaning up after them. I was proud of their product and the energy spent creating. Yet, maybe I enabled them. Not sure. Not sure what is age appropriate.
I do know I like being around Kinders and 6th graders and all creative people.