Time for Kindergarten

Identity Influencers

Although we are part of other groups before school begins, especially family and social activities like preschool or religious functions, school plays a very large role in how we identify ourselves. It is not wholly based on the people we encounter.

Arguably, the most influential people in our elementary school experience are our friends. The faculty and staff come in a close second. We cannot skip the fact we have to take some credit. Let’s look at some of the positive influences.

The Bus Driver

If you rode the bus, you can tell stories about the person who drove you to school every morning and brought you home at night. You can probably name (or describe to a “T”) at least one person who ferried you to school. The lessons you learned on the bus included driver courtesy (we hope), how to sit beside someone you really do not know and how to keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle.

Please, take your seat.

Safety was the most important lesson, at least to the bus driver charged with delivering you in one piece. It was not a solitary lesson. You also learned to trust a stranger. The bus driver was telling you of the horrible consequences of standing in the aisles while the bus was in motion, and you believed without having to see proof.

You did want some proof from the little girl who sat beside you. Remember the one with the pigtails? Or did you sit beside the boy with all the action figures stuffed in his backpack? Either one shared life at someone’s house. You learned storytelling. Now, you had someone to tell about the activities in your life, who was not there to see them happen.


While your bus friend is important, more likely you had a friend in the classroom. This friendship probably lasted longer than most of the others in grade school because it was the first. You had not learned any lessons yet. Somehow, the kindergarten teacher managed to teach classroom quiet while allowing you the opportunity to speak freely with someone on your level.

The similarity between you made you comfortable. The differences between you made Quaint interesting.

  • Height and weight
  • Dress
  • Speech proficiency
  • Academic proficiency
  • Habits
  • History

You were savoring the first bites of peer pressure. It was not the insidious competition and envy type, but the compare and contrast we exercise everyday when we met someone new. If you do not remember some of the questions you asked kindergarten Quaint, let me refresh your memory:

  • How come your hair stands up funny?
  • Will this fall off? (Generally refers to scab or mole.)
  • Why is your (insert body part) bigger/littler than mine?

In the infant trust, what Quaint told you was golden. Undoubtedly, your parents had to un-teach you some of the lessons Quaint taught you. Each one of those lessons taught you something about yourself.


The Whole World in a Book

If someone asked you who was your favorite teacher, you would not hesitate to name one. Why? What did that teacher teach you? No, not which subject. What did you learn?

Teachers touch us profoundly. They are our first pseudo-parents. They are the ambassadors of an unexplored world. They are repositories of answers to questions we never dreamed to ask our parents. They are willing to help us with no strings attached, except homework.

Teachers mold our sense of fair play, consistency and discovery. We use these throughout our lives to evolve our identities.

We learn how we would like to be treated. We learn to expect some things as a given, like what time lunch is. Teachers hold a world waiting to be discovered in books, maps, crafts and stories.


Parents are great at teaching through the if-then  principle.

  • If you touch the stove, then you will burn your hand. 
  • If you pull your sisters hair, then you will spend five minutes in time out.
  • If you wreck your bicycle, then you will skin your knee.

Friends and teachers fulfill the what, when and why quests in a very straightforward method. With what seems, in retrospect, an inordinate amount of patience, they withstand the barrages of unending questions.

You provide the compare and contrast method. You see others, compare them to yourself, identify with the similarities, contrast the differences and then, decide for yourself.

  • I want to grow up and be just like Teacher.
  • I want to be more like Quaint because Quaint has the coolest (shoes, hair, ability).
  • I do not want to be anything like Bully.
  • I want to get closer to that (girl/boy).

You are an observer. You adapt it all into your identity.

Not Me

Unlike at home, where you do not have the choice to disengage from household members entirely, at school you can choose to not associate with others. The scope of choices and frequency with which you choose becomes a cornerstone to your identity. Inevitably, you choose to disengage from those with whom you have no similarity or dislike the differences.

Not playing with her!

You also have the opportunity to try on different personas. You are already an accomplished pirate or fashion model, as witnessed by all of the other children at Mommy’s Day Out, but in school you get to try on the identity traits of your classmates without committing to a 30-year mortgage of your soul.

More importantly, you took off the personas which were not who you wanted to be. You found out you did not like the if-then of being a bully or a liar. You discovered the isolation of withholding when other children wanted to discover you. Your journey of being the person you wanted to be, instead of the one you were expected to be at home, began.


The next millipede leg will explore the negative influences. Please save your negative experiences for that section. If you have missed any of the Identity series, you can backtrack to other legs.


Who was your favorite teacher and why? What did you learn about yourself from your first best friend? Did you instantly discover a kindergarten Mate? What part of your identity has never changed since kindergarten?

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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  1. I’ll leave my comments for the negative, although I will say that I was known in my early years as being a playground comedian! 🙂

    Love and hugs!


  2. Wonderful story Ann Marie. And very thought provoking. In grade school, I had one friend that stands out in my memory. Her name was Helen. She was the youngest of 11 children and I remember going to her house and thinking how old her parents looked (they WERE old..as old as my grandparents!). When I was in my late 20’s or early 30’s, my husband and I stopped at a bank machine – nowhere near the location of my elementary school – and there she was at the machine ahead of me. I don’t know how I knew it was her (she HAD to have changed significantly since grade 1) but I did. I spoke to her and sure enough, it was. Before I told her my name, her face lit up with recollection and she knew. 🙂

    • And things in their house were very different, weren’t they? I came from a big family and always learned a lot from the only children I encountered. A man hobbled up to me, on crutches with a full leg cast, to call me by name. I had not seen him in more than 20 years. He said he would have recognized me anywhere. 😉

  3. Since kindergarten, when I was held back because my sister hated having her brother in her class (grew up on RCAF air bases), i realized that my family maybe wasn’t all that loving. Yes, it stayed that way throughout life. I also realized that lying never gets you anywhere, you only remember truths, so if you lie you always, eventually get caught in it!

  4. Love this one:) {Sorry I’m reading backward}

    My fav teacher (I have 2). First was in 1st half of 5th grade (I moved). She loved me and looked beyond the odd, bashful girl. She gave me jobs and made me feel special. I think she was a turning point for me.

    Best friend. As I moved a LOT I didn’t really have a best friend until 4th grade. She lived a few houses down from me. We were in 5th (the half year) together. I moved about 1/2 hour away for the rest of my school career, but we are still friends. Having an out-going sister, prior to this time I kind of tagged along with her, but they weren’t my friends. Joy was MY friend. She liked me! She wanted to spend time with Me! I still love you Joy!!!

    The other questions I can’t answer (the moving a lot thing).

    I did have one question:
    “■Why is your (insert body part) bigger/littler than mine?” Did you mean insert the name of a body part??? ha ha ha ha ha. Read this way, it could get you into a lot of trouble 🙂

    • LOL! I think you need sleep…or less internet! 😀

      • SLEEP? What’s that? Between trying to see dad and find help for him and having 4 grandchildren who think I am here to play with them…..

        Internet — so tired of sitting at McD trying to find resources!!! I will regret using the internet tonight, but I’m so happy to have it at night now:)

        I’ll sleep when I’m old.

  5. My favorite teacher was Mr. O’Hearn. I had him for grades 5 and 6, he was awesome and inspiring. Were I him I would have beaten my head into the wall a million times a day (at least). Our elementary school was an experimental school where three grades were combined into a single classroom (4-6), 50 students per class, 1 master teacher, 1 jr teacher, 1 aide per classroom. Mr. O’Hearn was the Master teacher in our classroom, between him and Dr. Abbenhouse (principal) that school experience didn’t entirely suck.

    I didn’t make friends easily, didn’t have friends I was particularly close to though there were friends in the neighborhood I ‘hung’ with. Even a few I am still in contact with today.

    • Most all of the children I went to elementary school with scattered. I have finally lost touch with the last I still followed about a decade ago. Hmm. So far, no one has mentioned a love interest. Interesting. Very interesting.

      • My only ‘crush’ was in third grade. I still remember him vividly …. ahhh Winston. I suspect he defined what and who would attract me for the remainder of my life. He became my definitive “type”.

        • My first marriage proposal was in kindergarten, and I had two more before the end of third grade.

  6. Oh yes I remember my elementary school teacher Mrs. Politano. She was so creative. I often wonder where she is today. A good thoughtful post Red.

    • With the springing up of the yearbook sites (and now there are hundreds), more people are finding out what happened to their favorite teachers.

  7. I had quite a few favorite teachers, but all were from highschool. They were the ones who appreciated my humor and heavy sarcasm, even back then.
    What has never changed is my talking. I talk a lot and interrupt people, even though I don’t mean to. In kindergarten, my report card (still have it), states per the teacher “If only we could harness the energy used with Lorre’s talking.”


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