What I Learned in Kindergarten, I’m Still Learning

I adored Dick, Jane, and Spot. See Spot run! Sorry, Sally, you were “just a baby,” and it’s been 50 years…or so… since I’ve read those charming primary books. In the mid-60s, I knew nothing about phonetic analysis and inquiry-based curriculum, I just knew I enjoyed the adventure of reading and I adored my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Ilma Gottula. She was upbeat, artistic, patient, and beautiful.

In his best-selling popular book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum sums up part of what I learned from Mrs. Gottula. Play fair. Clean up your own mess. Be aware of wonder.

Life Lessons from Kindergarten

I’d like to add a few of my own life lessons that kindergarten and Mrs. Gottula taught me:

  • Dream bigger.
  • Dare to color outside the lines.
  • See mistakes as companions who make you better.
  • Holding hands is not just for crossing streets.
  • We are all creative (not just with blunt scissors, glue, and glitter).
  • You have friends in this world you just haven’t met yet.

I should add: Naps are wonderful (even if you just close your eyes and pretend). Yep, in kindergarten after lunch and recess, I loved snuggling with my plush blankie, but I don’t think I ever fell asleep. My five-year-old mind was focused on the classroom possibilities: Come on, everybody, the clock is ticking, let’s practice tying shoes with that John Bunyan-style boot. We’ve got to catch up on Spot.

Kindergarten Is Part of Our First Chapter

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I returned to my homeland to give a presentation to the Johnson County Historical Society about how each of us has a remarkable story in history. As I pulled my rental car into the parking lot that night, Mrs. Gottula was sitting in a little pickup eagerly waiting for me to arrive. What a surprise! What fun!

Although Mrs. Gottula is now in her later eighties, she is still upbeat, artistic, patient, and beautiful. That night as my beloved teacher sat attentively to hear me share a few of my life lessons, I realized: Each new day invites each one of us to keep learning. Kindergarten is just part of our first chapter.

And before we said good-bye that night, Mrs. Gottula didn’t pull out black construction paper and blunt scissors to create a silhouette of me. Instead, she whipped out her cellphone to snap photos and exchange our contact info. See Mrs. Gottula text. See Beth smile.

Photo courtesy of the Tecumseh Chieftain.