Work hard. Bee nice.

By Sarah Elizabeth Gonzales, Kindergarten Spanish Teacher Apprentice, KIPP Austin

At KIPP Austin Comunidad (KACD) we start off our year with a unit on school values: Courage, Tenacity, Honor, Community and Quality. Every KIPP school shares the same two rules of work hard and be nice. At KACD we use our five school values to teach our students various ways to successfully approach and master working hard and being nice.

It seemed strange to me at the beginning of my time here at KIPP that two such simple statements could carry so much power. I understood immediately the necessity of explicitly teaching what hard work was and how to approach it; however, I was unclear about the being nice part. Weren’t all 5 year olds inherently nice? What could or would I really need to teach a kindergartener about being nice? As it turns out, a lot. Through the first unit on values and continuing through the first semester I have really seen our KIPPsters internalize those values and apply them in ways I never could have imagined.

A few weeks ago during our snack/second recess, I was monitoring the swings when I saw a swarm of seven yellow-shirted kiddos running toward me with eyes open in apparent shock and horror. “Oh no,” I thought, “who got hurt?” The first polo-clad child who made it to me blurted out, “Ms. Gonzales! There is a BEE in Christopher’s juice!” I laughed in relief and replied, “Okay… we talked about this remember? Bees are not going to hurt you and if you just leave them alone, they will leave you alone, right?” Instead of seeing expressions of relief wash over their little faces as I expected, I saw the group make sideways glances at each other and a look of confusion mingled in their eyes. “But Ms. Gonzales,” said a different little girl, “the bee is drowning, we must SAVE him!” Ah, now I understood the reason for the look of horror: a real life example of our mascot (the honeybee) was in mortal danger and this obvious injustice needed to be remedied immediately.

I walked back with the group to the picnic table where they were eating their snack and encountered Christopher, staring sadly into his now contaminated juice. “So Christopher, I heard there is a bee in your juice. Do you mind if I pour it out?” He nodded in affirmation and I proceeded to slowly pour out the juice onto the table and finally the bee was on solid ground. “Now don’t bother him please,” I instructed the group. “His wings are wet and he needs to dry off before he can fly. Don’t worry he will be fine, you all can go play now.”

I expected the crowd to dissipate immediately but to my surprise no one moved. Every eye was focused on the bee, struggling to regain his bearings after his ordeal. Every eye that was, except Christopher’s who was looking longingly at his empty juice cup. I was about to ask him if he wanted me to look for another juice but before I could utter one sound, a sweet little girl next to him offered up her partially consumed juice and in a meek voice said, “You can have the rest of my juice if you want, I’m not thirsty anymore.” Christopher, an English language learner, replied, “Thank you. You are nice.” My thoughts exactly.

To learn more about teaching opportunities at KIPP Austin or throughout the KIPP network of 109 schools, visit

To read a previous post by Sarah Gonzales, click here


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