Kindergarten ... Not What It Used To Be
Highlands TodayThis past week I volunteered for a day at the Kindergarten Learning Center in Sebring. I was amazed at this colorful, high-tech, almost magical place that gives today's kids their first taste of school.
Published: August 29, 2008
Published: August 29, 2008
Instead of a blackboard, they have a "smartboard." The teacher doesn't write on it, she plugs her laptop into it and the whole side of the room becomes a huge computer monitor that doesn't even require a mouse. It's operated by just the touch of a student's hand.
That started me thinking about how drastically things have changed in schools and homes since I was 5 years old. We looked at picture books and pretended we were cowboys or spacemen. We didn't have computers, or calculators, or cell phones. We didn't even have television.
Telephones sat on the table, fastened to the wall by a straight brown cord. The receiver alone weighed about eight pounds. I was not allowed to touch ours, but I remember I had to memorize our telephone number by the end of my first week of kindergarten. I still remember it: BL-92558.
Yes, phone numbers had letters in them. And, no, there was no such thing as an area code. If you wanted to call long distance you dialed 0 and told the operator the state, city and number you wanted. My aunt, who lived on a farm, didn't even have a number. She was on a party line and her number was "two longs and a short," on her crank telephone.
I remember when another aunt and uncle got the first television in the family. It was taller than me and about four feet wide with a hexagonal screen exactly 9 inches wide. I remember all the relatives huddling around amazed at that flickering, snowy, black-and-white image. There were so many people crowded in one room we kids had to lie on the floor under the coffee table to see. We watched Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on "Your Show of Shows," and we laughed ourselves sick at the antics of Red Skelton.
Those were the days when my mother dried the laundry on a clothesline in the back yard, then sprinkled all the dresses and shirts, rolled them up, and packed them in a basket overnight before ironing them. The steam iron hadn't been invented yet.
Those were the days when Daddy gathered up all our shoes every Saturday night and polished them so they'd be ready for church Sunday morning. We were lucky to have two pairs of shoes, one for school and one for church. I can remember my first patent leather ones that didn't need polishing. Boy, was I hot stuff in those!
Back then, you didn't throw away perfectly good shoes just because you'd worn holes in the bottom. I remember taking our well worn shoes to my grandfather to have them re-heeled and half-soled. He ran a shoe-repair shop in his garage. It was a wonderland of rubber shavings and whirring brushes, where the pungent fragrance of saddle soap filled the air and I diddled away many happy hours as a kid. I also remember, each fall, when it came time to return to school, how I longed to just hide out in Grandpa's shop instead of facing a teacher I didn't know and kids I knew all too well.
My kindergarten teacher's name was Mrs. Waring. To 30 timid 5-year-olds she was stern and scary. I remember we all had cubby holes, labeled with our names, where we stored our nap mats and the paper "thinking caps," we put on when it was time to sit still and listen.
Today, kindergarten classes are limited to 15-20 students. That's a good change. But this week, it was strangely comforting to see that at least some things have not changed. One of my tasks was to stick name tags on cubbies for the 17 frightened, excited kindergarteners soon to arrive in Mrs. Stephens' class.