August 1997 // Volume 35 // Number 4 // Commentary // 4COM1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

All I Need to Know and Didn't Learn in Kindergarten - I Learned from Working in Extension

All I Need to Know and Didn't Learn in Kindergarten--I Learned from Working in Extension is a revision of the famous "Kindergarten" essay by Robert Fulghum. Working in Extension provides many lessons on life that are full of wit, insight, and feeling. Understanding these basic lessons can increase the effectiveness of all Extension workers.

Cathy Lowery Graham
Area Specialized Agent for 4-H, Youth, and Families
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State University
Lumberton, North Carolina
Internet address:

All I really need to know about how to live, what to do, how to be and didn't learn in kindergarten, I learned from working in Extension. Wisdom does not always come just from Ricks Hall, but frequently from the volunteers and children playing in the sandpile.

These are the things I have learned:

  • Play fair, carry your workload, be honest.
  • Share everything--opinions, pencils, copier, secretaries, ideas, phone duty, and toilet tissue.
  • Never forget Secretaries' Day, Bosses' Day, their birthdays, and Christmas, or their deadlines.
  • Don't hit people or computers--be professional and learn to control your frustration; exception--hitting "D" for "delete."
  • Put things back where you found them--publications, keys, equipment, paper, and especially your county Extension director's coffee mug and your secretary's files.
  • Clean up your own mess; your mother is not on the Extension payroll.
  • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody--feelings do matter.
  • Count 4-H staff as volunteers on ES-237, Accomplishment Reports, and ERS.
  • Don't get caught surfing on the Internet looking at pictures of Brad Pitt and Brooke Shields--naked--and don't act like you haven't looked.

Also I learned:

  • Don't take things that aren't yours--being trustworthy is truly valuable.
  • Memorize the 4-year Plan of Work--word-for-word.
  • Drive the state car.
  • Brown eggs and white eggs taste the same.
  • Some chickens can never be auctioned and pigs should be in pairs.
  • Flush, flush, flush those files annually and of course the mailing lists...remove Mr. Jones since he died three years ago.
  • Wash your hands before you eat and after you eat at 4-H Camp.
  • Success stories--just do them!!
  • Everyone flunked Mindreading 101.
  • PPC&E means "Please Put Consideration on Excellence."
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you; family and consumer agents say, "Absolutely not... maybe one Snackwell and a Diet Coke." EFNEP staff say, "Breastmilk is better." Agricultural agents say, "Uhm, I haven't tried that; is it good with Oreos?" Extension administration says, "Oh Lord, that's disgusting!" Secretaries say, "Personally we prefer hot chocolate." Livestock agents say, "Just give me some goat milk." Four-H staff says, "Who cares--I'll take a pina colada and some Alka Seltzer."
  • It doesn't matter what program area you work in, you must know how to take and read soil samples and get rid of fire ants.
  • Rank does matter, self and family sometimes do not.
  • Green construction paper is always out of stock.
  • The boss would never see anyone goofing off in an Extension Center if the boss would just go home early.
  • To work in Extension you must be a speaker, a marketer, a writer, a magician, a typist, an educator, a programmer, a budgeter, a manager, an evaluator, a planner, a trainer, an implementer, an innovator, a chaperon, a leader, an organizer, involved in the community, creative, energetic, flexible, effective, trilingual (English, Spanish, and computers), a resource developer, a wolf, a bulldog, a student, and a team player.

I also learned:

  • Graduate school is an educational process of endurance.
  • Some county commissioners should be hypnotized.
  • Extension can be a breeding ground for workaholism.
  • If work is the center of your life, you might be unbalanced -- consult with those around you--look in the mirror.
  • Interdisciplinary work makes the load lighter.
  • Grin and bear and share annual conference.


  • You must attend in-service training to the end of time and if you don't, your county Extension director will say, "Your buttocks are mine."
  • Live a balanced life--learn some and think some; write, read, and type some; and play some everyday--district and county Extension directors say, "Work some too."
  • Take a nap everyday--especially in the afternoon at 4-H Camp and every fourth Monday during Administrative Briefing and several cat naps during the week of new agent orientation.
  • When you go out into the world Dr. Ort says, "It doesn't matter if you are EFNEP, ag, CRD, family and consumer, administration, or 4-H, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together."