A few years ago, Kirsi Antunes, our school counsellor, introduced our staff to the language of “expected” and “unexpected” behaviours. For opportunities where we wanted to correct a student’s actions (actions, not willful wrongdoing), rather than saying they were making a bad choice, we tried to name the unexpected behaviours and help them choose expected behaviours. In the early days of kindergarten, there are many “unexpected behaviours” and they are often delightful and exasperating. Kirsi tells it best, so I’ll let her tell you in her own words…

– Elementary Principal, Karin Riemer

One of my favourite parts of being a school counsellor is working with students from kindergarten through grade 12.

Not only do I see students grow and develop over the years at ACS, but I am always amazed what happens in a matter of few months especially when a kindergarten student enters school in the fall and then when spring approaches.

Special Visits

In the first month of kindergarten, I have a special opportunity to get to know all kindergarten students as I visit classrooms for a series of three lessons.

The fact that we have capacity to experience multiple feelings at the same time is well demonstrated on the first day of kindergarten.

I see great excitement as well as some worry, sadness, fear, and shyness. There is a lot to adjust to and learn about that isn’t about the alphabet or numbers at the beginning. My lessons are intentionally short and designed to engage them in practicing how to follow a group plan, keep their body in the group, and use their eyes to think of what the plan is.

Even my family is excited about the first month of kindergarten as the common question around the dinner table is, “What happened in kindergarten today?” In the short 15 minutes I spend in each class, a lot can happen.

I can only say, “Blessed are you, kindergarten teachers!”

Hands Up!

One time I primed a group of students to think of a simple direction of collecting some cut out apples off the floor. Students were all pointing their fingers at their heads thinking of the group plan’s first step. As the apples had just been spread around the classroom, I asked someone to tell me what the group plan is.

Every hand shot up to answer the question.

I chose one student to share, and their response was, “I saw a dead bear on the side of the road!” Immediately chatter followed about a variety of things they and their families had witnessed. Someone had just lost a tooth.

I always walk out of the classroom with a big smile and fuel to face the other more heavier parts of my day.

Smiles, Waves, and Ivy

So, as we approach springtime, when I see the kindergartners walk by my office on the way to use the washroom across the hall, I often get waves and smiles. Some of them sneak a hug from my therapy dog, Ivy.

As I visit them in their classrooms, they are now experts at being in kindergarten. They still have a lot to share and they also know when it is a good time to do so. There are also many feelings, but less worries and fears.

Bless you, kindergarten teachers, for helping your students come so far in a few months, not only walking alongside them as they learn and play but helping them grow in confidence in the many new things they can do.