I remember my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Britton. She was a heavy set woman who wore thick lensed eye glasses. Her glasses seemed dwarfed by her face. I adored her. It was easy to see that I loved going to kindergarten everyday. I couldn’t stop skipping. I was in the big-kids school. Our classroom had a playhouse. We sat 4 to a table on tiny chairs at a round table.
I learned how to write my name in cursive while in kindergarten. I watched my Mom and then emulated her handwriting. I asked her to write my name in cursive. She showed me. Oh, all those swirling letters. A-L-E-C-I-A looked so fancy. Grown-ups wrote in this code. I would write like this! I practiced and practiced.
One day in school, when it was time to write our names on the back of our art projects, I proudly wrote my name in cursive. Mrs. Britton hung our art in the hallway. She pulled me aside. She flipped over my art. She pointed to my name. She asked why I wrote my name like that. I proudly told her and my classmates that I had learned cursive. She told me not to do it again. She firmly said I would learn cursive in an older grade and that I needed to stay with my class learning to print. She looked disappointed. I didn’t want to disappoint Mrs. Britton. I was mortified. Quivering-lip, fighting-back-tears mortified. I had done something wrong and everyone heard her say it. When I got home, I cried.
Every week, two kindergarteners were assigned the job of “turning-in” the milk money. Mrs. Britton collected the money from us, placed our money and parent form in an envelop and then trusted us to walk all the way down the hall to the office. It was a huge responsibility.
When it was my week to “turn-in” the money, I was elated. My buddy and I headed to the office. We walked carefully. This was an important job. Actually this was the most important job in kindergarten. Once we had given the envelop to the office, we began the walk back to our classroom. We were alone, 2 triumphant kindergardeners, passing the 2nd grade classrooms. We walked with pride. As we approached the 1st grade classroom, a boy stepped into the hallway. I knew him. His name was Curtis and he had been in the same nursery school with me. He was a year older. In nursery school he had a girlfriend. For the nursery school Halloween party, he was dressed as a groom and his girlfriend was dressed as a bride. I was in awe of Curtis. Now he was a first grader. I smiled at him. He sneered back. As we walked past him, he began to speak. I looked at him and he slowly whispered, “Kindergarten Babies”. I was floored! Curtis called me a baby. I was not a baby. We continued our walk back to our classroom. it was like the wind was knocked out of me. Kindergarten Babies? Kindergarten Babies! Why would he say that? We had just been in charge of the milk money. I was devastated. According to my parents, I couldn’t even tell them the story when I came home. I was crying that hard. I quivering-lip-sobbed, “He….*sob*, he… *sob*, he called me…*sob*, he said we….*sob*, were Kindergarten… *sob, sob, sob*, KINDERGARTEN BABIES!”
Every teacher after Mrs. Britton dealt with more than just me, they dealt with me and diabetes. As I listened to the breaking news today, I was dumbfounded by the horrific tragedy which occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. I listened at my desk while this senseless story developed. I walked home from work with a heavy heart. I arrived home, shut the door, sat down, hugged my dog and cried.
Those kids were indeed Kindergarten Babies. My heart aches for them and their families. I cry for those children who witnessed this travesty and I hope somehow, some way they remain just that, babies.