If you have a little one that is due to begin Kindergarten in the coming fall, a lot of excitement and joy is probably spreading throughout the family. But accompanied with that joy is a little fear and yes, tears. I’m not saying whose tears are flowing but yes, it’s normal for both the parents and the child to get a tad emotional.
This is where the love begins.
In my teaching years, I taught Kindergarten for many years. Usually in the spring before Kindergarten, there is a Kindergarten Round-up (well, that’s what they call it in Texas). This is an evening when parents of future Kindergartners are invited to come hear a talk about the upcoming year. An explanation of the school and Kindergarten program are explained. Teachers are introduced and parents are invited to ask questions. This is a great time for schools to get a rough number to indicate how many children to expect in the fall. There will always be changes as people move, or parents didn’t get the message to come to the roundup. But it’s a great first step to understanding what will be expected in the coming year. And it’s also a great way to meet new friends that also have children the same age. Arranging play dates with parents will help to ease the anxiety of the first day.
Hold them close while you can. Life seems to move very quickly at times.
The days before the first day of school will be filled with excitement. Shopping for school supplies, clothes for school, last visits to parks and pools or other joys. Each school and grade level will post school supply lists on the schools website, at local stores or even on the windows to the schools. Usually the school doors are locked and it’s for a very good reason. Teachers are inside busy making your child’s room a magical learning environment. Also, every time a parent comes into the room to talk or visit, this takes precious time away from doing what he or she should be doing, working. Try to think of this interruption this way.... would you walk into your spouse’s office to chat while they were in a meeting? Probably not. During the Roundup night in the spring, there will usually be a piece of paper asking for information and questions about willingness to help the teacher. Please sign up for this. It is so important to help out at your child’s school and there are a million different ways to help. If a teacher is needing help with anything before the beginning of school, they will for sure contact you. Even if you work there are still several ways you can help your child’s teacher... cutting items, coloring, organizing... all from the comfort of your home.
Meet the Teacher
Ok, the second biggest day has finally arrived. Meet the teacher day. Children and parents will be invited a few days early to come into the classroom to meet their new teacher. As a former teacher please try to remember this little piece of advice. This is a day to come meet the teacher and LOOK around the classroom. Usually the room is not completely ready, but pretty close. Your child’s teacher has been working for weeks to get things organized and put away after the school has been busy cleaning, moving, repairing rooms, desks, chairs and other items during the summer months. This organization time has taken hours and hours to get to the stage where they are ready to begin a new year.
When you arrive, the teacher may or may have not put out a few toys or puzzles for children to play with during their time. There will also be an enticing amount of games, puzzles, books, crayons, markers and more put away on shelves. Please do not allow your child to randomly pull items off the shelves to play with. The teacher will explain the rules of the classroom on day 1 so that the children know what is expected. Think of it this way... if you were invited to a friend’s house for coffee or even dinner, would you randomly go through closets and cupboards pulling out items to look at and play with and then leave them on the floor for your host to clean up? Well maybe hahaha, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be invited back. Respect and manners are learned at a very young age and should be mirrored at home. Explain to your child, your expectations of behavior before they enter the classroom. This will be the teacher’s first impression of you and your child. Let’s make it a very positive one.
Meet the teacher time is meant to be just that. A short... “Hello, this is my child Julie. She’s very excited about the new school year. Is there anything you need that I can help you with? Thank you for your time. Ok, Julie, it’s time to leave. Say goodbye.”
If you have real concerns about your child... i.e. learning disabilities, concerns, allergies.... write them down on an index card with your child’s name on it and simply hand it to the teacher. She will be able to read it quietly after everyone has left. And, she or he will have time to do that if the children have not come into the room randomly pulling items off the shelves, creating chaos in their room.
Now remember that lovely calm routine you began in Preschool. Keep this in place. Take them home. Let them be outside to play. Dinner, bath, story and an early bedtime. Children at this age should be going to bed around 7:00-7:30. This is wonderful for two very important reasons. First, a child this age needs a great deal of sleep in order to function properly during the day. Many children this age still nap during the day, which is great! Second, parents at this time are exhausted as well. When children go to bed on a regular schedule, at an early time, it gives parents precious time to relax, regroup for the next day and to spend time together. Give this gift not only to your child but to yourselves.
First Day of School
Finally, the big day has arrived. The first day of Kindergarten. Big school. Plan to walk your child to the classroom on the first day of school if possible. Notice, I did not say INTO. Your child’s teacher will be standing at the door to greet each child. EACH and every child is important to this teacher. YOUR child is important to you but the teacher is greeting 22 or more children and each should get the respect of getting a nice, warm greeting from their new teacher. Give your child a hug and a kiss goodbye and let them enter the room. Their teacher will let them know where to sit. Let them go in to the classroom. If your child begins to cry, signal the teacher for a little help and she will help to ease their apprehension. If your child has a cling on grip around your waist or legs, same thing, simply signal the teacher for a little help to pry the child loose. Tell your child good bye and assure them you will see them soon. And here’s the most important point..... You must leave. Don’t linger around to see if your child is still crying, or peek through the classroom windows, or gather with other parents out in the hallway. Meet parents outside. If your child continues to cry day after day, try not to worry. This actually is normal for some children. Remember everyone is unique. Be kind, be firm, be consistent about your routine of dropping off your child and picking them back up. The routine will ease their anxiety. And trust me, usually the child who is crying at the door with Mommy, usually comes into the room and stops crying within a minute or two. Oh those little heart strings little ones know exactly how to pull.
I’d like to end this section by saying... Kindergarten is the best! Your child will have the most fun and truly love learning. Building a child’s educational process is like building a house. It all begins with laying the perfect foundation for the house to stand on. Kindergarten is that foundation. This is the first precious year where we want to instill a love for school. How do we achieve that? By building a love and respect for other children and their teachers, learning how to play together, using manners and being kind, building a love for reading, numbers and a curiosity of science and history. Teaching them to be proud of their classroom, school, community, state, country and the world around them. This is the foundation to learning and the funny thing is.... it all begins at home and in the Kindergarten classroom. Now ask yourself... How do you want your child’s house of education to be built?
Hay, Sticks or Bricks
And lastly, I used to read this poem to my Kindergarten parents every year at the end of the year. It’s written by Robert Fulgham. Truer words have never been spoken. I’m pretty sure we would all do better in life if we remembered what we learned in Kindergarten.