Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Jennie Fitzkee

I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.

I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.

 My guest today is pre-school teacher Jennie Fitzkee who shares her thoughts about the narrow views we tend to hold as children and young adults, and how life and experience teaches valuable lessons…

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now by Jennie Fitzkee

People- they should be turned inside out so we see their heart and their mind before their looks. I have learned much over my 70-plus years. My memories of meeting people and making friends long ago are crystal clear. I was kind and friendly, and they were, too. Yet, that’s really all there was. How a person looked was all that mattered. I am ashamed that I turned my back on people, and even more ashamed that I avoided some people. I am most ashamed that I voiced my opinion, wrong as it was, in Civics class in high school. Oh, I wish I knew then what I know now.

When I began teaching children, I learned along the way. Children are the best teachers, if we pay attention. They are lightbulbs. They are sponges. They love all the people they meet. The more I taught children, the more I became ‘one’ with them. Slowly I learned to see through their eyes. Children are blind to people of color, and to someone with a difference. Blind. We all need to be blind.

There was a facility in town that cared for children with special needs. I contacted them to see if they had a child who could come and play with my students. They did! They were as excited as I was. She was welcomed with open arms by the children. She was in a wheelchair with a tray in the front, and my children would bring her toys to play on her tray. No one asked children to do this. They wanted to. And the girl smiled. Oh, it was a big smile.

I had never felt so wonderful.

At school, diversity had become popular. Teachers were encouraged to have a ‘Persona Doll’ in their classroom, a doll of a different ethnicity. I was the only teacher who rejected this idea, because our town at the time had nearly zero people of different race, ethnicity, or religion. How could a child understand a Spanish doll, or an Asian doll? They couldn’t, yet I knew this concept was important. I racked my brain, “What people are different for children to see, maybe even a little scary?” I knew the answer right away – old people. Children see them using a cane, in wheelchairs. They see them as not pretty. That’s their first thought, and they stay away.

That’s exactly what I did when I was a child, too.

That was the start of my own learning. I was determined to introduce children to diversity in a meaningful way. After all, children are naturally blind to differences. Acceptance is one thing, truly making a friend or learning about someone who is different is another thing. What if I purposely added ugly and scary to someone who was different? Would this work? Along came Gloria, a witch puppet. The first day I introduced her, she was incredibly shy and scared. She didn’t want to talk to the children. She stayed nestled in the crook of my neck and children began to coax her. Gloria soon welcomed the children. More importantly, the children welcomed Gloria. They learned she was just like them.

Gloria lived in a picnic basket above the kitchen cabinets. I made sure she was part of my planned curriculum and that she came to Morning Meeting every week or so. One day I forgot to put her away. She was sitting in the teacher chair when a child came rushing over to me. “Jennie, Gloria won’t answer me!” I looked over to see half a dozen children eagerly talking to Gloria.

And I had been keeping her locked in a picnic basket.

From that point forward she lived on the sofa. After all, she was one of the children. One of us. Us. That felt good. She was a natural, too. Not long after that, a child asked if Gloria could come to his house for a sleepover. I wasn’t so sure, but he was. “Don’t worry, Jennie. I have a night light. She won’t be scared.” Of course Gloria had the sleepover, and many more followed. She took a journal with her every time. She has been mountain climbing, at the Red Sox parade in Boston, trick-or-treating, a guest at high school graduations, and more. Interestingly, when parents return the journal after a weekend event with Gloria, they are frequently frustrated when other people ask about ‘the witch puppet’. “Jennie, they don’t understand. She’s not a witch.”

Thank you, Gloria! I wish you had been around when I was a child. I wish I had known then what I know now.

©Jennie Fitzkee 2022

My thanks to Jennie for sharing this heartwarming story about Gloria and the wonderful ability of children to see beyond external appearances..

About Jennie Fitzikee

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That’s what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.

Connect to Jennie – Blog: Jennie Fitzkee – Facebook: Jennie Fitzkee – @jlfatgc


Thank you for dropping in and I know Jennie would love to hear from you… and if you could share that would be wonderful too.. thanks Sally.

110 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Guest Post – I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now! by Jennie Fitzkee

  1. I’m not surprised by Jennie’s wisdom which always shines through in all of her posts. First, one of the best things that children can see is to watch and learn when we make mistakes. As I used to say to my students, we all make mistakes (even me), but smart people are the ones who learn from their errors.

    I agree 100% with Jennie’s thoughts about how accepting children are of others. It is perhaps the most beautiful quality in children when they have yet to be influenced or care about someone being different. They accept everyone.

    People sometimes say, “You’re acting like a kid,” when referencing some type of behavior they see in other adults. Perhaps adults need to watch with a closer eye and learn from children who don’t see color, religion, ethnicity, gender, or any of the other hundreds of ways some people try to make others feel they are less than for being different.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I love this post, and the follow-up discussion. Thank you Jennie for your creative way in which to inspire acceptance and empathy. Sally – this is an excellent series that gives me much to think about.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Hi Sally, what a wonderful post by Jennie. We do feel different when we are in our late teens and early twenties to how we feel as adults. We mature and we learn acceptance and understanding. Young people are full of passion, often about the wrong things, and they are unbending in their views. Teaching young children about acceptance is certainly a helping hand in ensuring their youthful passion is better directed.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. A wonderful post by Jennie. She is such an amazing teacher and friend and we all learn from her. She is so right, children are light bulbs and sponges. We can learn so much from them if we pay attention. Thanks for featuring Jennie here, Sally.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I agree fully with you, Jennie. Children are, indeed, our best teachers if we allow ourselves to learn from them. Thanks for sharing this wonderful story with us.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. What a lovely story.
    I loved the idea of Gloria and yes it’s a group that is often overlooked and yet what we will all become.
    There was a time when grandparents and other visitors were encouraged to come along and listen to children read or to help with their learning. They were always welcome and were/are a valuable resource.
    Indeed ‘Children are the best teachers, if we pay attention.’
    I’ve used puppets and dolls in class too and it’s amazing how the children respond.
    I’ve seen many schools use bears and other toys to go home each weekend with a child but love the idea of a little friend like Gloria. (A grandparent?)
    Thank you for this.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I loved the wisdom, beauty and understanding in this. Jennie’s piece was so powerful it brought me out in goosebumps and I still have them as I write this. Great series, Sally. xx

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is so heart-warming! I love Jennie’s vulnerability in sharing her own life lessons along with this beautiful lesson in compassion and diversity. As a teacher, I concur with her. Although I teach middle school, I find that students are mostly accepting of others and do not create the parameters that society tries to push onto groups. What a better world we would have if we could dismantle those separations. Thank you for sharing this with us, Sally! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. A lovely guest post from Jennie, Sally. 😀 I’ve enjoyed reading about Gloria’s adventures over the years. She certainly has found a loving classroom thanks to Jennie and the children. I also love how kind and accepting and thoughtful children are. We can all learn a lot by taking our cues from them instead of the other way around. Wonderful post, Jennie. ❤ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Jennie should be cloned that that she could teach every child when they are young. Nobody understands the minds of small kids better, or loves them more.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I loved this post! Jennie is so right, children are innocent and accepting until all the bad stuff is drilled into them. Jennie teaches the kids to be loving and welcoming and by using Gloria to do this is a brilliant idea. I always said, the world could use more Jennies ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. As a preschool special education teacher, I too have learned over time to see the world through the lens of a child. To see the hearts first…oh what a beautiful blessing and gift! To look beyond what’s on the outside and see the true and authentic self of everyone ❤️

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  15. Jennie is the best. I love following her blog. As a retired elementary school principal, I wish I had had Jennie on my staff. She is such a great role model.

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