The Kindergarten Survival Guide


I did this about 40 years ago. My mother still has it on display in the kitchen. Unfortunately, it’s probably still the best thing I’ve ever drawn, which is why I’m grateful that SAGE employs actual artists for my books.

Today is my birthday and it dawned on me that I’ve now spent more than half my life teaching college students. (Really, I have. The math checks out and everything).

One of the many benefits of spending this much time Peter Pan-ing my way through life is that I get to see a lot of my former students grow into adulthood, family life and parenthood. Seeing the updates of graduations, jobs, weddings and children is one of the best things this job offers as a continually renewing benefit.

Two of my former students, who have been immensely helpful to my book-writing and blog-pimping careers, got married a number of years ago, became parents and raised one heck of an amazing kid. As he completed his pre-school career, his mom asked if anyone on Facebook had any advice for him regarding kindergarten.

In an attempt to be helpful, and maybe amuse his parents, I sent the following “Kindergarten Survival Guide” to this young man and I figured I’d share it here as well. Enjoy:

1) Make sure the teacher knows your name for all the good reasons (good napper, drinks milk well, doesn’t fight) as opposed to all the bad reasons (makes noise, does not work and play well with others)

2) Always be nice to the kid who doesn’t seem to have any friends. If you pick on that kid or be mean to him/her, it will haunt you for the rest of your life.

3) Put time and effort into ANY major project that your teacher tells you is “going home for your parents to keep.”

My mother STILL displays the drawing I did for her that was turned into a plastic plate, and had I known that, I would have put more time into coloring it and I wouldn’t have drawn the tree so big.

(It STILL pisses me off that I forgot to color in that guy’s shoe…)

4) There’s nothing wrong with doing your own thing. Just because the bossy girl says, “We are ALL playing kitchen and I’M the chef” doesn’t make it so. Feel free to wander away and read or play with cars or something. You are under no obligation to feed into her delusions of grandeur.

5) Nobody likes a tattletale. Don’t run to the teacher for every minor grievance. Save your tattling for when it counts. Like when a kid accuses you of setting fire to the reading nook or when the milk money goes missing.

6) Kindergarten is not a competition over whose family is more dysfunctional. Feel free not to share everything that goes on at home.

7) You have the coolest mom and dad in the world. You know it, the teacher knows it and your parents know it.

8) Nobody really sleeps during nap time. Except the teacher. Let her snore. She’ll wake up eventually.

9) The kid who says he saw a leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day is LYING TO YOU ALL. MAYBE he saw his dad drunk on green beer, but that doesn’t count. Don’t feel bad you didn’t see one. (OK, maybe that’s my own personal scar coming through, but still…)

10) Enjoy every minute of it. You are a great kid and don’t let anyone ever tell you any different.

2 thoughts on “The Kindergarten Survival Guide

  1. Lynn Filak says:

    The plate is still up in the kitchen to remind me that you and I have some commonalities—- not being the best artists in the family. However I hope I have just a little of the thoughtfulness and intelligence as well as love of my former students.

    • vffilak says:

      Thanks, mom. 🙂 Whenever we see people you’ve taught, even if they’re adults with children, they still yell, “Mrs. FILAK!” I think that says a lot about the impact you had on your former students.

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