Saturday, February 26, 2011
My time with my first batch of kindergarteners has come to an end after a grueling month of finishing all of the bookwork and practicing for graduation. For the graduation ceremony, each kindergarten class was required to put together a ten-minute performance made up of songs, skits, and speeches that would demonstrate to the parents some of what the kids had learned throughout the year. Though most classes chose cute skits of old fables or speeches about their favorite themes, our performance, titled “Save the Earth,” was more of a public service announcement addressing the problems our world is facing and how we need to change they way we live. When it had come time to pick a theme for K-Blue’s graduation performance back in January, it wasn’t hard to settle on this theme because even though we spent a lot of time everyday sorting out menial matters such as which chair everyone got to sit in (even though they were all seemingly the same), having their pencils perfectly sharp at all times, keeping their crayons organized in their own versions of rainbow order, and making sure they got the glue with their name on it, my kindergarten class had also expressed even bigger concerns about the environment and the human condition. Ever since we had learned about the environment and pollution, my kids became hypersensitive to waste andpollution; every morning declaring that the weather was, first and foremost, smoggy; screaming “Teacher! Pollution!” at the sight of the exhaust coming out of cars and even the steam from their own breaths; and staging dramatics about wasting water at lunchtime. (Not too long ago, when Claire didn’t finish her water at lunch Joseph and Lily encouraged her to finish with “Claire, no trash the water! Save the Earth!” thus leading Claire to chug the rest of the water, choke, and then after recovering, show me her empty water bottle while proudly stating, “Shelby Teacher, I no trash the water. I save the Earth!”)
The Macalester student and dance teacher in me went all out, resulting in a performance complete with choreography, props, and lots of liberal sentiment. The kids were so excited to be doing something to “help the Earth” that by the time graduation rolled around K-Blue’s performance was so heart-warming it would have made any charity drive proud. (You can watch the video below.) The kids started the performance singing the Discovery Channel’s version of “Boom De Ya Da,” and giving speeches about what a great place the Earth is. Then they sang the Glee version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” signing the chorus with the sign language I learned from YouTube. Their next speeches talked about how the Earth is hurting from pollution and war, which they followed with a shortened version of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World,” during which they helped each other put bandaids on a giant Earth in the background to symbolize fixing the world’s problems. Finally, they talked about how we can make a difference and put paper children on the world while singing Michael Jackson’s “We are the World.” They ended by demanding, “We want to help the Earth! DO YOU?” Maybe it wasn’t your typical kindergarten production, but when they performed at graduation, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with goosebumps. Of course, graduation wasn't only the performances, they gave collective speeches to their parents, friends, and teachers; presented flowers to their teachers and received certificates; and did traditional Korean drum performances, as well.
Thursday night, the official graduation, I felt both immensely proud and extremely sad. Their performance showed me just how much each of my students had accomplished and grown during my time with them, and the pride and gratification in their parents’ faces reassured me that I had done a good job teaching their children. At the same time, saying goodbye to them was harder than I would have ever expected. In the past seven months each and every one of my twelve kindergarteners touched my heart in their own special way and I fell in love with them as if they were my own children; I had a hard time holding back a flood of tears as they repeatedly hugged me and thanked me with flowers and homemade cards, each child more tearful than the last. By the end of the night, I was left reassured that I had at least made some impact in their young lives, and as sad as I am for this class to move on, they made me excited to meet the next group.