My first job after college was a kindergarten teacher. I started in a district that had full day kindergarten, and they’d had it for a long time. There was an entire set of discipline procedures in place for misbehaving kindergarteners that was a little less strict and a little more forgiving than it was for older kids. I didn’t know any better, and in my book it was logical and fair.
A couple of years later, I went to a district that was switching form half day kindergarten to full day kindergarten. When I asked about discipline measures, and what we would do with kids that needed to be removed from the classroom, I was met with a lot of blank stares.
“We’ve never had to remove anyone from a classroom in kindergarten. That just isn’t something that happens,” said one teacher that was old enough she could have been my kindergarten teacher, so she totally knew what she was talking about.
I left it at that, not wanting to be the new girl rocking the boat or shaking things up. And we started school. Within the first week, there was an office full of kindergarteners. Kids who ran out doors and down hallways, kids who hit and fought, kids who missed their moms so much they were getting sick– an office full of kids who just couldn’t handle a full day of kindergarten.
In an emergency meeting the older teacher spoke, ” It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. These kids are out of control. How are we ever supposed to teach like this?”
I was the only teacher in the room with full day kinder experience, so I answered, “The problems we are having aren’t unusual, this is something we have always experienced at the beginning of the year. We just can’t keep relying on the office. That isn’t really the answer, and they can’t watch a bunch of barely five-year-olds down there all day.”
“Wait, this is what happens every year in full day kindergarten?”
“Yes, we just handle it a little differently than this.”
So, we implemented some of the plans from my old school. Sending kids to different classrooms for a change of scenery, having parents meet their kids at lunch if they need a little pick-me-up, making keychains for backpacks with pictures of pets and families from home for kids to look at and remember. We even had some kids bring security items from home. It worked out okay, but we still had problems. Problems that these teachers had NEVER in YEARS AND YEARS of teaching experienced when they taught half-day kindergarten.
And that’s when I realized what was happening, five years old is too young to spend an entire day in a kindergarten classroom. No matter what we did, no matter what kinds of plans we came up with, the school day was too long for these babies.
I know what you’re thinking, that there just isn’t enough time in the day for these teachers to teach what these kids need to know, but remember, these teachers weren’t being asked to teach more in a full day of kindergarten than they were in a half day. The state standards were all the same, they were just being given more time in the day to do it.
And that is why I think full day kindergarten is a terrible idea. We should let kids be KIDS for as long as we can. The sooner we toss them in a room, regulate their lives into daily school schedules and have them being taught all day, the faster we are asking them to grow up.
Bring back half day kindergarten. Please.