What I Learned in Kindergarten

When I was a teenager, I had a poster on the wall of my room by Robert Fulghum titled “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.” It told me to play fair, take a nap every afternoon, and hold hands when I go out in the world. During sleepless nights, I would lay on my bed and read each instruction. As my 15-year-old life spun out of control, it was oddly comforting to ponder those simple truths.

Now, as an adult with a graduate degree and a daughter getting frighteningly close to kindergarten, I find myself returning to the opening phrase on that poster.

“Wisdom was not in the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile.”

~Robert Fulghum
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The world tells me I am smarter now that I hold a graduate degree. At my graduation last month, friends and family gathered around to tell me the amazing and impressive feat I had just accomplished. The only problem was I didn’t feel like I had done anything remarkable. The real accomplishment lies ahead of me. What do I do with this fancy piece of paper? Where do I go now that I’ve reached the top of the mountain? I return to the sandpile.

Kindergarten wisdom

The original poster from my childhood home is long gone, but I can still recall the advice:

  • The roots go down and the plant goes up.
  • Stick together.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Be aware of wonder.
  • The biggest word of all is LOOK.
  • Everything dies.
  • Share everything.

Share everything. The phrase sticks in my mind today. I find myself pondering the word “share.” A word we have overused almost to the point of meaninglessness. We share pictures, posts, quotes, food, thoughts, feelings, and every little thing that is happening to us. But are we sharing everything?

In our digital world, “sharing” has become a medium for showing the posed and polished view of our lives.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We post the parts of our lives we want everyone to see, the things we don’t want to keep to ourselves. Our fears, messy houses, failures, and bad hair days don’t see the light of day.

Kindergarten taught me to share everything, not just the pretty side of things. And why is this an essential kindergarten lesson for life? Thinking of it in five-year-old terms, sharing benefits others, but it also benefits me. For example, I am attempting to teach my daughter how to share with her little brother. Her idea of sharing is to hand-select toys for him while protecting toys for herself.

What she doesn’t realize is she sacrifices her freedom to play. She is too busy preventing my son from getting her most valued possessions to enjoy those same possessions. In order to experience the joy and freedom of giving of myself, I have to let go of that thing which I want to keep the most. We all benefit when I say, “Here is my most valuable possession – I am sharing it with you.”

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com


My #OneWord2019 is share. Share everything. Share the parts of me I want you to see, as well as those parts that I’d rather keep locked in my room.

Why do I share? It’s what I learned when I was barely old enough to hold a pencil. It’s what connects me to other humans. Sharing everything gets all the whirls of thought spinning around in my head out into the world so that I don’t go crazy, and you realize you aren’t the only one with whirling thoughts spinning around in your head.

What do I share? My thoughts, my ideas, my story. My fears, confidences, triumphs, and failures. I have to share the things I think will benefit someone and the things no one will appreciate. My responsibility is not to worry about what is beneficial or unappreciated, but to just share.

I’ve failed, succeeded, grown, learned, reflected, and practiced. I’ve spent years of my life in utter failure (my twenties), and years of my life dedicated to improvement. I’ve focused on myself (in therapy and rehab), and focused on others (my students and my own kids). I’ve spent enough time collecting, planning, and thinking. It’s time to put it all out there.

What I have to share

I want to share liberally, unconditionally, without fear of the response.

Perhaps I receive nothing in return. That’s OK. Sharing is not about receiving. It’s about letting go of the thing I am holding with an iron grip to prevent you from seeing it. When I share, you grow from receiving but I also grow from the giving. I have no hopes or expectations of anything coming back to me except for the freedom and emotional growth that comes when I open my hands and let you see what I am hiding.

Education needs fixing. I have some ideas and experiences to contribute. Students need help. I have things that work and don’t work for me when facing students with trauma. Share my failings and mistakes that may help someone learn what not to do. Share my successes and particular experiences in living through poverty and trauma that may help someone learn what to do.

My actual living room right now.

Share. Everything. Share what I know and what I don’t know. The places I’ve improved and the places that are a work in progress. Share that I am sitting on the couch in my unbelievably messy living room, furiously typing at 5:00 AM before my kids wake up and it’s time to get going for the day. And, finally, share that whether or not I think I’m smart enough or qualified enough to be writing this blog, I feel called to write, so I must write. Despite my fear that I’ll be laughed or booed off the stage, or, even worse, that I’ll receive no response at all and discover I am talking to myself in an empty theater. Laughter, boo’s, or silence notwithstanding, the call is there so I must share.

My daughter will start kindergarten before I know it. Will she learn all she needs to know for life in that one year? In some ways I hope she does, in other ways I hope not. I hope she learns to be kind, hold hands, and clean up her mess. I hope she learns that learning to share is learning to grow.

What do you have to share?

References and Further Reading

Fulghum, Robert. (1989). All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten. Random House: Toronto.

7 thoughts on “What I Learned in Kindergarten

  1. Monica

    I enjoy your writing and this will be the first blog that I will read. This will be good preparation for my return to the community college in two weeks.


  2. Pingback: 40 Thing to do AFTER I turn 40 – Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard

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