Kindergarten was a lot of fun, except for those things we had to learn – Back when learning was a chore, not about engaging the mind. Aside from the required nap that interrupted my play and the lessons that tired my brain, I really enjoyed it. Of course, it didn’t hurt to have an extremely beautiful teacher to look at. Well, that is until she left us to have a baby.
The replacement teacher started off fairly well. She got accustom to our large room and seemed to use different areas for specific purposes. The large walk-in coat closet was in lieu of lockers and had shelves for those who brought lunch boxes.
I rarely used the lunch box shelf, as I lived one block over and was allowed to go home for lunch. If my dad worked the night shift, he’d make my sister and me open-face bologna sandwiches for lunch. During the winter he would add soup to the menu and during warmer weather he’d serve cottage cheese and applesauce. If dad was working the day shift, my grandma would come over and make us lunch.
My teacher had set up a clean area next to a big art sink. It was used for messy art projects and setting up cool science experiments. I remember her giving us large white bowls filled with water and having us sprinkle lots of pepper into it. She then asked us to guess (form a hypothesis) what would happen if we put a drop of dish soap on our finger and touched the water. The outcome was much different than my guess, as all the pepper instantly shot to the sides of the bowl when my finger touched the water.
Other areas in the room included the teacher’s desk where I had to stand to talk about all the red marks she made on my papers. The large wall of windows with the eastern exposure was lined with shelves of toys for playtime. And, my favorite area was the large alcove set up like a playhouse where I could pretend to be a dad and businessman.
I suppose having come from a family who constantly shared stories made the teacher assume that my favorite area was by the fireplace where she read stories to us, but she quickly changed her thinking after giving me a choice that she’d never forget.
One day the teacher had our class sit along the rim of the oval rug by the fireplace, while she rocked in the chair and read out loud. The story was boring to say the least and I was close enough to the shelf of toys to grab a couple of building blocks – One became a race car zooming around, while the other was the emergency vehicle to quickly aid in every crash.
I hadn’t noticed that the drama of my play was causing the teacher’s words to stop flowing. Nor did I pay any attention to how many of my classmates were watching me create incredible stunt scenes with my block car skidding, flipping and crashing. Even the rescue squad made entertaining moves as I swung the vehicle around to save the stuntman at the last second, before the car blew up.
The teacher called out my name and everyone’s head turned to face her firm look of disappointment in me. Her eyes locked onto mine. Her look suggested words of punishment were about to roll off of her lips in some form of an ultimatum. She knew how important story was to me and she was about to threaten me with a choice.
“Young man,” she stated firmly. “You can either put away the blocks and listen to the adventure story I’m reading the class, or leave our cozy storytime area and spend the rest of this time in the playhouse.”
The playhouse? Cool! She had just extended my time of make believe and sent me to my favorite part of the room. How awesome was that? Well, the decision was easy and the reward so fun that my enthusiasm was contagious.
The teacher was speechless when I took half of the class with me, playing house and work. It was one of the most fun playtimes we had ever experienced. As for the teacher, she never gave me another choice the rest of the year.