Saying Goodbye to My Kindergartners

If I don’t write this down, I know I’ll forget it. I don’t want to forget. I want to remember Tuesday for the rest of my life.

Tuesday was the day I went into my son’s kindergarten class for the last time.

Ben’s teacher has given me 30 minutes in the classroom each week for a mini-session I affectionately refer to as “KinderKindness.” Thirty minutes in a classroom with kindergartners is an incredibly valuable amount of time—equivalent to buying a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl for $5 million. (Seriously, that’s what it costs. I just looked it up.)

These kids are busy learning big lessons like how to read, how to subtract, and how to stand in line without touching anyone else. Trust me, Mrs. H. uses every minute of the day to prepare them for first grade and for life. Thirty minutes a week for an entire year was a huge gift.

I rushed into the school on Tuesday, five minutes late. I hate to be late. Hate it. I had a good excuse, but it doesn’t matter. Twenty-three kids and three adults were waiting on me, and I was letting them down. Not very kind.

I scurried through the hall, but when I got to the kindergarten area, the room was black. All the lights were out and it was totally silent. The kids were gone. They had left for recess or art or gym and I had missed them.

Mrs. H. stepped out of the darkness as I sputtered out an explanation. “I’m so sorry …”

“No worries,” she said. “They should be back in a few minutes. Come on in, I’ll turn on the lights.”

As I stepped into the classroom and the fluorescent bulbs snapped on, 23 of the sweetest smiling faces excitedly yelled, “Surprise!”

My first thought was, “Oh no! I just made 23 kids sit quietly in the dark for an extra five minutes.” And then I thought, “Wow! They did it! They actually sat quietly enough in the dark to surprise me. I’m so proud of them!”

The quietness was long gone as the kids bubbled with enthusiasm to show me the card they had written for my last KinderKindness visit. Precious.

I re-read them the first book we’d ever read together, Have You Filled A Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud. Then we counted all the hearts they had collected and taped to the back wall: 301. Each heart represents an act of kindness the children either did or noticed.

One by one, the students came up and gave me a big hug or a high five for kindness (or both) and then got a treat bag filled with kindness coins and chocolate kisses. Some kids wanted to come back for one last extra hug. Again, precious.

That night, I asked Ben about his Glad, Sad and Act of Kindness for the day. He said his Glad was that I came into the school, and that he didn’t have a Sad that day. “No tears?” I prompted. “Well,” he said, “I almost had tears when I hugged you goodbye because it was your last Kindness day.”

And then he remembered that he lives with me, so we weren’t actually saying goodbye.

I love kindergartners.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

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