My friends and I have all been anxiously texting, BBMing and emailing this weekend as we prepare for the first day of kindergarten on Tuesday. My mania is high as ever.
I am so fortunate that my sister is a kindergarten teacher. My friends and I plan to hire her as a support group leader (but she doesn’t know it yet!).
But in the meantime, she’s been nagged by me offered to share some wisdom with us right here; I’m very grateful!
Not a kindergarten parent? The information will still be helpful, I promise…
It’s Labor Day weekend and you are anxiously awaiting your child’s first day of kindergarten. Your child has had a couple of years of preschool, you’re finally done with the supply shopping, and you sort of feel ready.
I am a mom of 17 years and a kindergarten teacher. My own children are way past kindergarten, but I am also anxiously awaiting my first day…my 20th first day of kindergarten.
Here are some dos, don’ts, and things to consider as you embark upon this new and exciting time in your child’s life. Please remember that the following is based upon my actual experiences and what I believe is sound educational and parental practice. Each district and school has its own unique set of procedures, policies and guidelines, and those are the ones you need to get to know well and follow.
Do buy your child a sturdy backpack with a fastener s/he can handle and is big enough to hold a lunchbox (if your child will be bringing snack or lunch.) Zippered packs usually work best as they keep everything inside and dry when it rains and snows.
Do not buy your kindergartener a backpack with wheels. They are completely unnecessary and most kids cannot handle them safely.
Do have your child wear sneakers or rubber-soled shoes. By and large, most 4-5/year olds cannot tie their shoes well, if at all. Safety and comfort is the primary focus, so leave the strappy sandals, patent leather shoes, and Crocs at home.
Do not send your kids to school in unsafe footwear because s/he was screaming and wouldn’t leave the house and you just couldn’t deal with it. We all have those mornings.
Do allow your children to participate in choosing clothes for school if s/he is so inclined. But limit their choices between two items that are school and weather appropriate.
Do not send your kids to school in pants with fasteners and extra buckles they can’t undo quickly. Many bathroom accidents can be avoided if the kids had pants, leggings, tights, whatever they could pull down in a blink.
The First Day
Do adhere to the transportation policies your school and district set forth. This is a non-negotiable. I’ve seen more near accidents and problems because parents were parked in bus lanes and blocking the safe flow and direction of young children as they are guided off buses to their teachers and classes.
Do not follow the bus to school in your car. I know you want to. You want to get that photo as your child steps off the bus on the big day. But, think about it… buses are rolling into the bus drop off area. The bus monitors, aides and teachers are carefully scanning each child for the sticker or badge that has his name and the teacher’s name. A child sees his parent’s car, or his parent hiding behind a bush with a camera (yes, this really happens), and wanders off or cries or both. Do not make an emotional day more trying than it already is. Parents who follow their children to school are doing it for themselves, not their children. The first day of kindergarten is about your children, not you. Take the picture when your child gets on the bus, and be there when your child gets off the bus a few hours later. That’s the best way to document the voyage and it’s the biggest gift you’ll give yourself and your child.
I know I’ve written a good deal about it, but it bears repeating. It’s never, ever a good idea to follow the bus on the first day, or to skip the bus altogether.
After the First Day
Do ask the teacher if you have questions or need clarification.
Do send your teacher a quick email or note if your child had a great first day. We really do appreciate all positive feedback.
Do not question everything s/he does. You’ll drive yourself crazy… and probably the teacher, too.
Do remember that all of your children will learn to read and write.
Do not assume they will all grow up to be good people because you are great parents. Social skills are an integral component of the kindergarten curriculum. These skills are taught organically throughout the day, and explicitly during lessons designed for that purpose.
Do keep in mind that adjusting to elementary school is a big change for kids and parents. It’s exciting, but the whole family will need time to get used to the larger setting and different culture. Public schools must adhere to state standards and regulations, and therefore have rules and policies that can feel impersonal and too stringent.
Do not feel put-off and insulted when you can’t wander into a school without checking in at the office, or into your child’s classroom, since that’s what you may have been used to in preschool.
Do fill out all the forms they give you the way they ask and turn them in on time. As the year progresses you will feel inundated with a million things from school to fill out and return. Remember that the teachers have to deal with all the stuff you return to school (and most of it is not generated by the teacher.) For each thing you have to fill out/order and return, the teacher often has to keep track. Multiply that by a typical class of 20.
Do not be embarrassed to ask for another copy of a flyer, permission slip, whatever if you need it.
Do teach your child how to wipe his bottom.
Do tell your child’s teacher at an appropriate time if s/he had been receiving support services in pre-K or if there were any major behavior or emotional issues. The sooner we have this information the sooner we can help your child.
Do not assume we have the CPSE information, as those files are closed and not available to the kindergarten teachers.
A few other items:
Most schools don’t refrigerate lunches that kids bring in, nor do they heat things up. So be mindful of what you pack. A little lunchbox ice pack is fine and I’ve never had anything spoil in my classroom.
Do not bring your child to Back to School Night (unless, of course, they are invited) even if you know people who do. In all the schools in which I’ve taught, it’s an adults-only evening.
No matter how many first days of kindergarten I’ve had, I am always nervous and filled with anticipation, just as my new parents and students are. It will take time to establish routines and for us to get to know one another. Please be patient with your child, your child’s teacher and yourself, as you make this adjustment. It is an amazing time and you should take a breath and enjoy it!