Teacher

I taught kindergarten for seventeen years in Los Angeles.  I was also the poet in residence for twelve years in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

My take on teaching resembles an exploration: it comes from both ends: kids learn; teachers learn, too, from kids.  If you are lost, kids get lost.  Teachers who demand respect will never win it.  Too many teachers look upon themselves as sovereigns.

In my first year of teaching I worked in a school who had a kindergarten teacher who was Queen Bee.  She had taught for years and gave advice to each newcomer.  Being male, I was looked upon with suspicion.  “We don’t go into the sandbox,” she proclaimed.

“Why?” I asked.

“It makes the custodians unhappy.  And of course, brings sand from all over the yard into the rooms.”

The following day I saw her class sitting around the outside of the sandbox, hands only in the sand.  The next day my class went into the sandbox, and her kids looking out their window were aghast.  She was livid.  At my second visit, I opened the water faucet nearby.  We made canals and irrigation ditches to work with.  (!)

Early on I talked to the Head Custodian: “My kids and I are going into the sandbox.  We are bringing some brushes and pans and will clean up as much as we can outside the sandbox.  Water will be controlled.  Parents are sending kids in ordinary clothes.  The kids themselves have made up rules.”

“I can give you extra brushes and pans,” he said.  “And a key to close the faucet.”

It went well, and Queen Bee was left with her kids asking why couldn’t they go in the sandbox?

Every kid got a turn to be Captain of the Brushes and Pans.  Queen Bee never talked to me again and that year retired.

Every Friday I sent hom a newsletter.  The parents loved it and I had fun with it:
I truly enjoyed teaching.

My Minnesota kids growing up:

Inspired by my time as a kindergarten teacher, I published a collection of poetry, The Pearl is a Hardened Sinner: Notes from Kindergarten.  Please read an excerpt on my Poetry page.

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