One of my Grands began Kindergarten this morning. His mom and dad shared photos showing his huge smile and his eyes full of excitement. He’s been going to preschool and pre-k so he’s used to the routine, but this is a different journey. This is real school at a new school, with new classmates. For weeks he’s been asking about making new friends, anticipating all the ‘really cool’ things he’s going to do, especially science experiments.
The day of course brought to mind my first step on this road. I remember the first day, but I don’t think I was quite as excited as my Grand. I was more cautiously curious. Back then, neighborhood schools were the standard so everyone lived within a few blocks of their school. Most of us walked each day – yes, rain or snow. I lived two blocks from the red brick building, my cousins lived across the street from it, so I was familiar with my school – from the outside. A week before classes, Mom and I walked the sidewalk route I was supposed to take, she showed me which door to enter, took me to the classroom (last door on the right as you came in the front door), and introduced me to Mrs. Barrick.
And so it began.
Yet I honestly don’t remember much about that first year. It was only half day – maybe 8:30 – 11:00? – and in those two and a half hours we also had a nap, or at least a 15 minute rest period when we pulled out our red and blue mats and were supposed to settle down. I’m sure this was as much to give Mrs. Barrick a moment of peace and quiet as it was to quiet our young minds and little bodies. We also had our snack time with milk and graham crackers. And no doubt we spent a few minutes on the playground for recess. So out of that half day I’m not sure how much time was spent ‘on task’, as simple but important as our tasks were.
Most of us probably never attended day care or preschool, so learning to socialize with others our own age was a biggie. Learning to follow directions from someone other than our parents was another. I do remember the child-sized playhouse with dishes and play food, doctor kits with plastic stethoscope sure we were hearing our heartbeats, rhythm instruments that probably contributed to the need for that period of quiet, and balls, stuffed animals, and puppets.
I remember musical chairs, drawing pictures, and coloring. Mrs. Barrick asking each of us how far we could count, asking how much we knew of the alphabet, and I think there were those large flip charts on metal stands with pictures and sight words – the, up, in, a, an
We learned or reinforced (because we’d already learned them at home) the basics Robert Fulghum wrote about in his essay, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat.
My Grand’s experience has been and will be so much different. His day will begin around 7:30 and end at 2:00 or 2:30. A part of me thinks that’s a long day for a little body, especially since naps were eliminated in preschool. While he and his classmates continue to work on Fulghum’s basics, his interests go far beyond learning his numbers and the alphabet. He’s told me about tsunamis, endangered species, and why it’s important to eat the right foods. Part of entering kindergarten was being assigned his own tablet-the computer kind, not the paper kind. Last summer we had a discussion on punctuation. He thought it was funny I was 5 years-old before I knew what a question mark was and he knew that at 4. This summer, while learning how to play Uno, he wanted to use the cards to do ‘take aways and adding tos’.
Another of Fulghum’s basics is–When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. I look at my kindergarten picture and see the baby faces of classmates that I’m still good friends with – baby faces long ago softened into gray hair (or no hair) and smile lines. Many of us passed through all 12 years of school together, and despite moving away from our hometown, we remain close.
This evening I asked my son how my Grand’s first day went and one word – “Great!” My hope and prayer for him is that above and beyond what really cool things he’ll learn this year, making lasting friendships will be one of the most important he carries through the next 12 years and beyond.
I was going to add a brief prayer for students and teachers anyway, but on tonight’s news we learned a local eighth grader took a pistol to school in his backpack. On the first day. It was not at my Grand’s school, but another reminder of how his school experience will be so different from mine.
God of wisdom and might, we praise you for the wonder of our being, for mind, body and spirit. Be with our children as they begin a new school year. Bless them and their teachers and staff. Give them strength and grace as their bodies grow; wisdom and knowledge to their minds as they search for understanding; and peace and zeal to their hearts. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (borrowed from Holy Name Jesus School) And please protect all of them from harm. (My addition).
Kim, I enjoyed reading your blog about kindergarten. Loved the class photo. I was able to ID several! I had Mrs Friar at North School for kindergarten. She became ill and we had subs finish out our year. Now I see from the picture she must have retired. Oh how I hated those stupid naps! Such a waste of time! I ended up spending time in the corner or with my nose in a circle on the blackboard because I wanted to chat with my new friends! Lol!!
Thank you! Your comment is hilarious! How dare they stifle your outgoing, friendly personality?! Lol. I always felt sorry for those who had to keep their nose in a circle. It always looked like the the circle was drawn just a tad higher than your nose so you had to reach a bit. And who ever thought up that discipline anyway? Guess it’s better than a swat. Funny the memories we carry from that far back. Thank you for reading. I hope your 2023 is a wonderful one.
Thanks Kim! Hope you have a great 2023,too!