Early Childhood School Lessons Ring True for Adults

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One of my favorite books is Robert Fulghum’s “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” The popular Random House printing has been around now for 38 years, older than some of our Callaway-Jones team members, in fact. If you might have missed this book, beautiful expressions of simplicity remind us all as adults that our life training starts early.

We are first taught by our parents, through their actions, their words, and their deeds. Here are some of the rules we learn in kindergarten. 1. Share everything. 2. Play fair. 3. Don’t hit people. 4. Put things back where you found them. 5. Clean up your own mess. And on it goes, dispensing wisdom that to those of us who’ve long since forgotten kindergarten, have still remembered the rules. Mom always said, “The rules don’t change.” And she was right.

The four-way test of the Bryan Rotary Club is the adult version of some of Fulgham’s rules. 1. Is it the TRUTH? 2. Is it FAIR to all concerned? 3.  Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?  See the resemblance? As children, we learn how to treat others, we receive positive reinforcement when we do the right thing, follow rules, and we get second chances at a young age to make mistakes and fix them.

Being held accountable, as children, for our words and deeds surely makes a lifelong impression. Children who are not raised on the rules, not offered the opportunity to own their actions frequently grow up to be irresponsible adults. Childhood friendships are some of the earliest opportunity to make lifelong friends.

I’m still as close today to many of my teammates from soccer, whether or not they went to my school, because we had so many shared experiences. How do our friends see us? School days are back in the Brazos Valley, starting today.

The more you’re around people, the better you know them, their strengths and weaknesses alike. Often our perceptions of people, though, change quite a bit, based on our age, our maturity level, and our true interest in seeing inside a person’s heart and mind.

I think specifically of the teachers that we had as children. In our kindergarten days, we cannot wait to go to school, for the most part. We’re so excited as we have new clothes, a new pair of tennis shoes, and new school supplies.

Thanks to organizations like the Junior League (Stuff the Bus) and individual churches who do clothing drives for jeans and socks and underwear for children, we as a community have worked hard to make sure that each child entering our educational system this week has just about the same chance of approaching learning with at least a smile on his or her face. That’s a great way to begin.

Think back to your early days, kindergarten and first grade. Chances are very, very good that if I ask you who was your teacher in college for your freshman English class, you might not remember. But, chances are very, very good that you know the name of your kindergarten teacher (Ms. Nichols for me, you might know her as Cindy Gordon) and your first-grade teacher (of course I remember Ms. Riggs). Still. Today, even after “x” number of years, I remember the teachers who introduced me to learning in BISD. Now, you’re remembering yours, right?

And, you smile as you think of how proud you were of all the “firsts” in your education. Our teachers at the time seemed like geniuses. Anything we didn’t know how to do, they showed us. How to make our letters. How to count. How to pronounce words we didn’t know. They were “magic.”

It wasn’t until I was long out of college that I even gave any thought to how many hours they have to spend in preparation to teach us. I think it’s an inverse relationship about teaching. It surely has to be easier to teach college than it is to teach first grade. After all, by college, we’ve learned all the “firsts” of education and had twelve years to practice it well (some more than others).

But, to teach us our “firsts,” and so many “firsts every day, is that not amazing? When Chelsea and I were on a flight last month, we were talking to a first-grade teacher who was on a (rare) vacation trip to see family. She said she had already started thinking about new ways to decorate her room for the coming year. I was stunned. The last thing on my mind, as a college age student, was that my teachers even gave my education a second thought during the summer. But that’s the norm for elementary school teachers.

Nowadays we see Bryan and College Station schools changing so fast that no one goes to the same building anymore for six years. Not hardly. We have new school campuses, like the beautiful new Sul Ross Elementary that houses all the classes in one outstanding building, rather than scattered between several buildings.

Think about it. You get the same teacher for the entire year for at least grades one through four. They are your leaders, your guides and inspirations for how you feel about learning. If they’re excited, you’re excited. If they encourage you and tell you that you can do it, you can do it!

And yet, we don’t see one single thing that they do behind the scenes to get their classrooms ready. Our teachers here spend hundreds of hours arranging their room layout, the things on the wall that the children see, and the hours they have to spend in meetings in the school buildings when the children are at home, and the hours they have to spend at night in their own home grading papers.

Back when I was in first grade, we didn’t have homework. Today, I’ll be driving down College Avenue during school zone hours and you see children being picked up and they’re wheeling backpacks on rollers that are almost as tall as they are! Today’s children have lessons about numbers and learn reading words that far exceed what we did at our same age. And the teachers who teach them have to spend hours and hours mastering all those things to teach the students today. It’s truly a labor of love they perform, and for not a very large amount of money when you cost out the number of hours they spend vs. the income and benefits they receive.

Here’s a special salute to every single teacher in the entire Brazos Valley and a heartfelt thank you for all you do.

 

Cody D Jones ’02
Owner & Community Member

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