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A new kindergartner with (too) high expectations

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| September 26, 2020 1:00 AM

My five-year-old loves her kindergarten teacher.

She’s NOT a fan of the substitute.

In the first week of virtual learning, our kindergartner developed an immediate attachment to her teacher. I’m glad she likes her, because it was unclear whether our strong-willed daughter would tolerate anything less than perfection from her primary educator.

She’s been waiting a long time for school to begin, especially after her pre-K school closed early with everything else back in March. She likes the title too - Certified Kindergartner. In her mind, it makes her an equal alongside her two older siblings. They can’t exclude her from this “school” business anymore.

And, of course, it eliminates the concept of “nap time” forever. Even through the summer, she occasionally napped, but on the days she agreed to lay down for a bit, she’d make us validate her central thesis of “Kindergartners don’t nap.”

Her new teacher, even in a remote position, is excellent with our daughter and the rest of the class. She provides all sorts of materials for “off-computer” learning, and she’s made a genuine effort to recreate the full kindergarten experience despite the technology limitations. Her patience is simply off-the-charts too, especially as some little kid unmutes his or her microphone every other minute to share a random fact with the teacher..

“Teacher! Did you know that when you fall down you can get hurt?”

“Teacher! Our dog just ate some food.”

It’s taking a few days for some of the kids to learn her name, but our daughter learned it quickly and talks regularly about her.

Then the substitute came along.

While her teacher had a totally understandable reason for missing class so early into the school year, a substitute teacher, online, with kindergarteners, is going to cause a few problems.

Halfway through the day, my daughter wanted to throw the computer across the room and go poke holes in the sub’s car tires.

Let me be clear: The substitute teacher was fine. She was kind and patient with the kids, and she did the best she could given the circumstances. But she did seem to be new to the virtual instruction experience.

My daughter typically wears headphones when online with her class, so there things my daughter said into the microphone that lacked context to me.

For example, she kept repeating the word “Bean” at one point with increasing frustration.

“Bean.”

“BEAN!”

“It’s a BEAN!”

“NO, I SAID BEAN!”

“DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT A BEAN IS?!””

Side note: When I’m quoting my daughter in all-caps, I literally mean that she’s YELLING into the little microphone attached to her headphones.”

My daughter kept sharing technical support to the substitute, who was obviously using Zoom for the first time. A five-year-old only has a finite amount of patience when it comes to technical difficulties.

“You have to unmute your microphone.”

“YOUR MICROPHONE IS OFF! PUSH THE SPACEBAR!”

“ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS PUSH THE MICROPHONE BUTTON!”

“NONE OF US CAN HEAR YOU!”

“FIGURE IT OUT!”

“BEAN!!!”

This aggressive behavior isn’t at all surprising to her parents (the usual target of her verbal abuse), though last year during in-person Pre-K, her teacher inexplicably told us she was shy, quiet and rarely spoke in class. Apparently she feels emboldened by the safety of the computer.

After the school day ended, I recapped the day with her.

Me: “Wow, it looked like you had a really fun day today doing art and letters and counting practice.”

Certified Kindergartner: “It was fun but I like my real teacher better.”

Me: “Well, sure, but the substitute was nice, right?”

Certified Kindergartner: “She doesn’t know how to unmute her computer. She was HORRIBLE!”

I can’t wait for the day when she learns how to write and discovers Amazon and Google reviews.

• • • 

Tyler Wilson is a freelance writer and stay-at-home dad to four kids, ages 3-9. He is tired, but he can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com