By Mary Yorke Robison Oates, Charlotte Latin School’s Director of Admissions
What I learned in Kindergarten at Charlotte Latin
Life is very lonely at Charlotte Latin. The walls are bare, and the halls are quiet. I miss all my favorite kindergarten and first grade people who have literally disappeared from my very world in the past week. Since last August, I have heard a steady hum of busy bodies just outside my door. On some days, the hum was so loud, I closed my door. Now the silence is louder. It happens every year. They just up and leave. The teachers sneak back in to do this or that, but my little friends who are learning on the other side of the wall have moved upward and onward. And they took their blinking sneakers and colorful tote bags with them. I am all alone thinking about them wondering how giant they will look when they come back and go to a new class farther down the hall. Even though it is summer, and our admissions season has staggered to a halt, people call and ask to come to campus and take a tour. I think to myself, “Oh, I wish they had called two weeks ago when the learning was bountiful.” I am happy to show them down the quiet halls with the bare walls, but the VERY best part of the tour is seeing the kids. They add the secret sauce. They ARE the secret sauce. It is not just because they are precious and miniature versions of people with feet the size of a Hershey bar, it is because they are so engaged in learning. They love school and you can see it and feel it on a tour. I read to my kindergarten friends before they left for the summer and asked them, “What did you learn this year?” This is what they said: “I learned how old my teacher was.” “I learned how to spell.” “I learned how to make new friends.” “I learned you can be funny no matter what. I learned that from Cat in the Hat.” “I learned if you worked together you could accomplish something big like building a tower.” “I learned the sum of ten and the plus stuff.” “I learned to tell time.” “I learned my teachers loved me.” “I learned that every word needs a vowel.” “I learned that Mount Rushmore just started out as a plain ole mountain.” “I learned how to listen without interrupting.” “I learned sitting on the log isn’t all bad. Sometimes you need a rest.” “I learned how to dig and climb good.” “I learned the Pledge.” “I learned how to tell time.” “I learned the Statue of Liberty was a gift from France.” “I learned to be Honor Above All.” “I learned how to be kind, respectful and nice.” “I learned I can be anything when I grow up. I am going to train hamsters.” I listened as they listened to each other. I must admit I was a bit awed by our youngest students’ self-observed milestones. They covered quite a bit of ground in one year: collaboration, loyalty, higher order math, language construction, trust, integrity, compassion, listening, confidence, patriotism, time and order, geography, wellness, pace, positive thinking and vocational awareness. Then one little girl added, “ I learned to be quiet in the halls.” At the time, I agreed with her because most every day of the week, I try to funny face a giggle out of our patiently lined up children. They keep a finger on the lip and hand on the hip, smiling a little grin at my crazy ways. But, as I sit here alone, in my still office, just outside of the quiet halls with the bare walls, I think, they really were never all that quiet in the halls. They wiggled and waggled. They looked here, there and everywhere. They made connections and were polite; they waved and checked out each others’ shoe laces. Sometimes they bumped into things but they always were ready to go to the next great thing like the playground where they might dig, or science where they might build a bridge, or back to class where they might blend some sounds, or to the library where they might find a book on hamster training. I am so glad they made those halls hum.