The bigs and the littles

I walk into a summer 4K classroom not knowing what to expect.  Our idea of mixing rising 4 year-olds and rising 5 year-olds for 4K summer school had happened.  Our hope was that the rising kindergartners would be the wise and patient seniors taking the newly entering freshmen under their wings.  

After the year of pandemic, our rising 4s needed all the class time we could offer.  My heart raced a tad as I opened the door of Linda Cardenas’ room, the 4K Lead Teacher at First United Methodist’s Children Center in Bennettsville, SC.  Debbie Polston, the Center Director, was by my side and had a contagious grin on.  She explained they were serving ten rising 4s new to the program and ten students who had been with them all year ready to head to kindergarten at the “Big School.”  Ms. Linda and the students greeted us warmly as they went about their routines.  Yes - calmly, efficiently, working together, and no visible sign of who the new students were.  I watched for a bit and walked to Linda. “So, tell me how this summer’s gone,” I asked a bit apprehensively.  Linda smiled widely and said, “Well, at first, I was wondering what you all were thinking! How in the world is this going to work?  But what I’ve seen is magic.”  She explained that she’s seen her rising 5s grow in confidence and composure.  They became the trainers and the teachers. One took a younger child’s hand the first day and said, “In our room we share.  Let me show you how to ask, can I have a turn?”  She gave many examples of the Bigs helping the Littles to learn about their routines, schedules, and being mentors and tutors.  The Littles basked in the attention of the Bigs.  Linda shared she is really looking forward to the start of the new school year, as the current Littles will become the Bigs and have their own new crew to help learn the ropes of 4K.  

Her rising kindergartners are heading off to Kindergarten with newfound skillsets of self-assurance and mentoring.  Debbie and Linda were just beaming with the effect that this summer has had on all.  JK Rowling says, “We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all of the power we need inside ourselves already.”  I left the classroom that sunny July day knowing that 20 students indeed found their power and magic inside Ms. Linda’s 4K summer school.  And Ms. Linda is ready to do this again next summer.

Topics: First Steps 4K, Early Care and Education


Martha Strickland

Martha Strickland is state director of First Steps 4K at South Carolina First Steps.

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