So, How Was Your First Day of School?
Meetings and Greetings
The first day back to school is usually an exciting but also sometimes frightening experience for children, parents, and teachers as well. As an educator, my goal always is managing to get the full names and phone numbers of every parent. Often times, parents cannot stay because they need to get to work or to a different side of the building or even a different school to drop off siblings. When I am successful, this is a significant victory. New families frequently move into the highly transient neighborhood where I teach and so the names on the list often do not match the names of the children standing before me. I carefully studied the faces of each new student and then those of their parents. Burning into my memory, the connection between the two would later help connect the correct face with the right child at the dismissal taking place within a few hours. Elementary school teachers make thousands of decisions daily. On the first day of school, each one is particularly crucial because, generally, most families are unfamiliar to the Teacher.
The first-day jitters? For over 30 years, my heart races, my mouth goes dry, and I sweat profusely. Somehow for the first time in my career, I can honestly say I didn't have any. I'm not sure why, but I didn't, and I was thankful. Armed with the knowledge that should I need to, I could reach the parents comforted me, and in so doing, that confident comfort was transferred to the parents and students as well. A few students - and a mom or two - waved goodbye with a teary eye. It is not uncommon for children to be reduced to tears at the thought of being separated from their parents for a serious length of time. Many are coming to school for the first time or are returning to school after a long summer break
I assured them that it was alright to cry. I even shared how, on my granddaughter's first day of Kindergarten, I cried like a baby, demonstrating uncontrollable sobbing, uplifted shoulders and twisting head included. This made them all laugh and seemed to put them at ease. In past years, I would allow the families to stay with the class for 30-40 minutes touring the room, and taking family photos until their child was somewhat comfortably settled in. Unfortunately, the administration did not make provision for that this year. When I told the children, I had prepared a "My 1st Day in Kindergarten" selfie station, they became eager to get to their "new home away from home."
First Day Activities
The morning was filled with singing familiar songs, the excitement of experiencing animated and interactive Storytime (Trip, Trap, Trip, Trap! Who's that tramping over my BRIDGE!!!???). A trip to the restroom included the experience of using homemade foamy essential oil soap (they LOVED it).
Food has such comforting elements, and that's a great thing. Just as a few tears were about to begin falling, it was Lunch Time. "Children, it's time to eat!" The little potential thunderstorms were quickly exchanged for questions about what there was to eat for Lunch. They were so excited to learn they would have Lunch with their new Teacher! With full tummies, we returned to the classroom for our mini photoshoots, the making of the 1st Day in Kindergarten crowns, and finding a lost sweater to the joy of a distressed little girl. With 4 and 5-year olds, the key to a successful first day of school is to have several hands-on, easy to show how to complete activities. These should incorporate name recognition (or the need to learn to recognize one's' name) and some work around early counting concepts. Keep those little minds, hands, and bodies properly occupied as they enjoy their time of learning while being away from their families. All these things made for a beautiful first day of the school year experience for us all.
Rest Time - Not On Day One
The transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten brings a 5 minute rest time in place of the cot time. On day one, things are so busy, there's no time for rest because the day is usually shortened.
"Do we lay down for a cozy nap now, Teacher? No baby, it's time to go home! No!!! I want to finish cutting out my crown!" There was more day than there was time, and I took a group of reluctant children downstairs to meet their parents.
Time to Go Home
If you're called to be one, teaching is the toughest job you'll ever love. Is there a price you can put on the face of a 4 or 5-year old who thoroughly enjoyed their 1st day of school? None.