Mrs. Cook’s Kindergarten

My kindergarten teacher did not have to worry about meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind, or Goals 2000, or any other federal mandate. But somehow she knew what to do.

Her name was Katherine Cook — Kay, the other teachers called her — and she’d been teaching for a long time.  Her room was open and bright, with high ceilings and enormous windows that looked out on the maple trees along Princeton Avenue. It had  gleaming, uncluttered wood floors for playing Farmer in the Dell; and gurgling radiators for drying our mittens and leggings when when we came in wet with snow. 

It was a time in the world when teachers “taught” and were not “facilitators;” and they skipped and sang and did not fail to correct an errant child.

Mrs. Cook played piano, as kindergarten teachers were required to do, and she simply struck a chord when she wanted quiet. No words — just beautiful-sounding notes that when played together stopped the cacaphony in a roomful of five-year-olds.   

The most important lessons I learned were not spelled out on my report card, but engraved upon my heart.  I call them, “Lessons from Mrs. Cook’s Kindergarten.” And I dedicate them to her memory.

Here’s one from the collection, which I will share will  periodically on Family Field Guide. I hope you enjoy them. FFG

Bad Names 

If you call Shirley a bad name, a funny feeling will creep into your heart. You might forget about it while you’re playing dodgeball on the playground, or eating spaghetti for supper. But later on when it’s dark and you put on your pajamas and climb in bed, the ache will come back. And the next day, when you see Shirley laughing and playing with her friends, you won’t want to join in.

If Mrs. Cook finds out that you were mean, her eyes will twinkle in a sad way, and you will know she is disappointed. She will tell you to put your head down on the table for a little while. And then she will take you by the hand to where Shirley is standing on the side of the room. She will make you look at Shirley and say, “I’m sorry.” After that you can play again. And your heart won’t hurt anymore. Not even when you’re putting on your pajamas.

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