Sunday, February 01, 2009
Teaching Kindergarten — Who Me?
Teaching Kindergarten—Who Me?
Guest post by Linda Rister Price January 2009
As a dedicated high school and university EFL/EAP teacher of over 35 years experience few teaching situations throw me anymore, so when I was asked if I would come and talk to my granddaughter’s kindergarten class, I said,
“Of course. No problem.”
The teacher went on to explain that every year the school liked to have guests come in and talk about their areas of expertise, and since I had lived overseas for so many years, perhaps I would like to talk about my country. “Excuse me, the United States?” No, naturally not. “Columbia” she said looking puzzled. I gently explained that though I lived in Colombia (please, the country is spelled with two o’s) for over 37 years, I was very much American, but I would be very happy to tell the children about this tropical paradise.
Given my normal tendency to ignore anything that isn’t imminent, I dismissed this project from my mind and went on with my life. About two months later, the teacher once again made contact about the “Teach-in Day” and was I still up for it?
“Sure, let me have the details,” I said.
A lengthy letter followed outlining all the details. She asked if I could give the lesson in Spanish —yikes— for their Salsa and Chips ESOL class period. It was scheduled for Thursday right after the kids finished talking about fire safety and climbing all over the fire truck. (Again, I’m not kidding.) And furthermore, she wanted to invite another class to join hers. What have I gotten myself into I thought.
A flurry of letters followed since I had previous commitments and dreaded exposing my deficient Spanish to the scrutiny of ESOL peers that I didn’t know. And preparation—never did I spend so much time preparing for my university classes. I spent for at least 20 to 30 hours preparing for a tiny 20 minute class. I had no materials for this age group—what do they do anyway in kindergarten?
I thought a map as a reference might be nice, but where to get one? I finally downloaded one from the Internet and had it blown up at my neighborhood photocopier. I mounted it on dark blue sponge board. I searched and searched in U.S. magazines for tropical fruits, minerals, and pop stars of Colombia (like Juanes, pictured above). I wasted hours and hours before my son said why didn’t you go to Google and click on images. If looks could kill, he would never have reached his 36th birthday. Still, this excellent idea put me back on track, and I was able to make up for lost time.
I decided to teach the kids a folksong. I know two in Spanish: The Mexican “La Cucaracha” from my early school days and “Los Pollitos” from Colombia. The first thing I discovered when I downloaded the words and music is that Los Pollitos is from Costa Rica not Colombia. Too bad—there was no going back now. I simply tossed out that all the kids in Colombia learn this song. Two web sites (www.mamalisa.com) and (www.juegosycanciones.com/songs.html) were very helpful. I made another trip to the photocopier to enlarge those cute yellow chicks and the words. Wow, black and white enlargements are inexpensive, but color—no way was I spending $35 bucks for this! I went home and got out my granddaughter’s markers and started filling in the colors. Did I mention I hate teaching young children because of all the manual arts you have to use?
The big day finally arrived. I gave my spiel and asked if anyone understood everything I said. Only two or three small brown hands of the most excited brown-eyed and brown-haired youngsters went up. All the blue-eyed, yellow-haired kiddies just looked at me. When I asked if they would like for me to repeat everything in English so they could understand, they solemnly nodded yes. The teachers all shouted out “Please.” Next we sang Los Pollitos, rubbing our stomachs for hunger, shivering from the cold, and huddling under the wings of mother hen.
Finally, I showed real bananas as a fruit grown in Colombia and gave them to the teacher to be passed out after lunch. But the biggest hit of the program was when I handed out a Colombian coffee bean to each child. They enjoyed the smell and were proud to receive a token from me. One even commented to his teacher that he was going to make his father coffee from his bean.
Despite feeling inadequate and totally unprepared for this age group, I did enjoy myself. Will I do it again? No way, you couldn’t pay me enough! Adios, and my most sincere respects to Kindergarten teachers everywhere.
Linda Rister Price studied Information Science as an Undergraduate and earned a Masters in Education (Curriculum and Evaluation) as well as a Masters in English as a Foreign Language. She is an English as a Foreign Language teacher of more than 35 years experience. She lived and worked in Cali, Colombia for over 37 years where she taught all levels of English there to students ranging from second grade to university students.
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