Recently at our school’s recitation, I was struck by a poem entitled Ations that was recited by the Kindergarteners. Aside from their over-the-top cuteness, I was astounded with the deep truths these tiny people were speaking. From cute-cheeked faces, philosophical nuggets were flowing forth. They were talking about the foundations of civilization!
In recent weeks, I had been telling my students about the tongue-in-cheek-titled book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. We discussed reminders of how to treat others and how to live well in community. Be kind. Share. Work things out. Wait your turn. Give others a turn to talk. Line up. Hold the door. Listen as others are speaking. These are the basic habits of human kindness.
The Ations poem confirmed that foundations are being laid not only for the next grade, but also for all future generations — civilization itself! The continuance of civilization depends on these basic building blocks.
Ations by Shel Silverstein
If we meet and I say, ‘Hi,’
That’s a salutation.
If you ask me how I feel,
That’s a consideration.
If we stop and talk a while,
That’s a conversation.
If we understand each other,
That’s a communication.
If we argue, scream and fight,
That’s an altercation.
If later we apologize,
If we help each other home,
That’s a cooperation.
And all these actions added up
(And if I say this is a wonderful poem,
Is that exaggeration?)
We see this in Scripture, as well: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:29-32).
Good citizens are being formed for this life and the next. What students learn in Kindergarten affects what they do in 3rd Grade and as Seniors and into adulthood. This way of human interaction must continue for civilizations to survive. Human flourishing is at stake.
Consider the following axiom: “When you teach the boy, you teach the man.”
When you encourage the toddler to pick up his toys, you are teaching responsibility. When you encourage students to work together to figure out a problem, you are teaching teamwork. When you encourage students to write or speak well, you are fostering good communication. When you applaud the student for showing you where you missed to mark a wrong answer on a test, you are encouraging honesty.
As C. S. Lewis states in The Abolition of Man: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise.”
We must teach them well. If we do, they will bear the fruit of honesty, integrity, faithfulness, teamwork, good communication, thoughtfulness, kindness, and reconciliation.
Reconciliation? Yes, for altercations will happen; we are human after all. But what a wonderful thing is reconciliation. It is the soil on which friendships bloom.
A thought occurred to me the other day: “Teach them well, for they may operate on you one day.”
This hearkens back to something I heard when I was in seminary. One of my professors would tell the class, “If you cheat in seminary, may the doctor who cheated in medical school operate on you one day.”
We are forming the next generation. These students will be the ones to keep the Kingdom going. They are the ones to carry the torch forward. We need to fan the flame and keep speaking truth to them.
The poem ends with a gleeful line about exaggeration which garnered giggles from the crowd. It is a reminder that laughter, too, is an integral part of civilization. Joy. Happiness. Human Flourishing.
Thank you to all the Kindergarten teachers out there and those follow who them. You are building up our civilization one student at a time. You are Kingdom Builders!
Let’s keep building.
by Stephanie Boss, CCS 5th Grade Teacher