Hi, Neighbor

When I was a kid, the jail sat next to the library. I’d go in to exchange my books, the cool air conditioning, evaporating sweat dripping from my neck resulting from the bike ride there in the hot Texas sun. I wondered if I’d ever be able to take a peek behind the door separating the library and jail. The neighboring door just behind the librarian’s circulation desk remained locked. I imagined a Mayberry jail, one of the criminals trying to figure out a way to retrieve the keys from Barney Fife or rig up some contraption to yank them off an unattended nail next to the cell.

Was Ms. Roper afraid? Did anyone ever open that door? Was there even anyone in jail? Ever? Maybe it was just there to make us think it was the jail. I lived in a tiny blink and you’ll miss it town. I never heard of anyone being arrested. That happened in cities like New York, not our town. Why was it next to the library?

One place, shuts down and isolates a person. The other frees them up. What strange neighbors, the jail and the library.

Walking out, I’d take a look at the neighbor’s front door. The window with the blinds drawn shut. My bike still waiting for me. Hugging my book stack in one arm, I’d steady myself in the seat and pedal off, until next time.

Royal Keepers of the Kindergarten Kingdom

That’s what I call our kindergarten teachers because not only do they keep the Kindergarten Kingdom, they do a phenomenal job teaching the little subjects. I have no idea how they do it. It’s a gift. I don’t have such a gift. I didn’t even have it with my own kids. They’re older now, in the sweet spot of childhood, one who started middle school and a high school senior prepping for his exit exactly four months from now.

With the pandemic, my role at work has me popping in to K-5 classes every third week on a specials rotation. Other weeks, I’m conducting my read alouds and library lessons via Google Meet from my library office. Not ideal, but I get to see once class of students per grade level every day for a week. I’m more comfortable with older kids. I taught 4th grade for 4 years, made it through one year of teaching second grade, and spent a full dozen years teaching sixth graders.

I went into the kinder class today. The door to the girl’s bathroom was locked with two littles needing it asap. It isn’t my classroom, so I had no idea how to jiggle it open. I called the office for assistance. All of the adorable kiddles are coming up to me to tell me their good things of the day; a new student, an upcoming birthday-in summer, a birthday back in September, getting to sit at a friend’s table, a new Among Us face mask, new shoes, two boxes of school supplies, and puppies. Always puppies.

I began the class with one little online and the rest in the classroom. It takes me a few minutes to set up when I arrive, so we chat. I sensed the excitement, which I knew would be the case without sensing it. We started out with movement and my go-to, their favorite, Go Noodle. Until they all start complaining about how they don’t like the video I selected. Sure, there are better ways to involve them in choosing the video, but I didn’t want to get close to a Kindergarten Cop level of teaching and they were getting restless. I wore latex gloves, but the touchscreen doesn’t like them. Before I could start the first video, they all swarmed to the screen to help me. We went through about 10 minutes of movement and transitioned to a read aloud.

We read “The Cool Bean,” an adorable book about a garbanzo feeling awkward in front of old bean friends who were now the “cool” beans of the school. We discussed kindness, feelings, how it can be hard to be kind, the setting, and different kinds of beans. I printed an activity for them with the main character front and center. I popped a link to a Pear Deck of a similar activity for the student learning from home. Most were excited about getting to design new clothes and a setting for the garbanzo. Before I finished distributing the handouts, one little comes up to me, proudly showing me the work.

“I’m finished!” Red marker encircled the bean. 15 more minutes to go. “Well,” I suggested, “where is the bean? Can you tell me where the bean is and draw the setting?” Those were the instructions I gave before they began. When some asked if they could cut out their characters, I encouraged them. Some started retelling the story and others started drawing other bean friends.

I started packing up my cart to transition to the next class. The teacher returned and her littles eagerly shared their activity and story. I did it. I don’t know how, but it worked. I managed the Kindergarten Kingdom for less than an hour and there was no evidence of a Kindergarten Cop in sight.