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  • David A. Van Wie

Her First Day of Kindergarten

In honor of the first day of school, a repost from a while back. For all teachers, nervous parents and, of course, kindergarteners of all ages...

My daughter is so excited about her first day of kindergarten. She has been waiting for this day for a long time. This summer, it has been just about all she can think about. She imagines the classroom, and the kids, and the playground. It can’t come soon enough.

She was thrilled when she visited her new school and met the Principal. It is a very nice school with colorful art in the hallways and a big bright classroom. Soon there will be pictures on the walls, and a special place for her stuff. The bell will ring and there will be announcements. She is looking forward to morning meeting, and going to lunch. I am sure she will even like quiet time. Do they still do naptime? Hopefully the excitement won’t be too overwhelming.

Sadly, unlike many of the other dads on the first day of school, I won’t be there with my camera to record the big milestone. Other parents will be at the bus stop or in the school parking lot, capturing a photo or a quick video of their child getting on the bus or walking up to the front door of the school. I, too, would love to be there to capture the moment when the pint-sized kids stream into class to greet the teacher, eyes alight and voices chirping with excitement.

But I can’t. Not because I am not a caring father, or because I don’t have a decent camera, but because it really would be a little strange, some might think extreme. That’s because my daughter is the teacher.

This fall will be my daughter’s first year with her own kindergarten classroom. After four years of college and three years working in special education and as a long-term substitute, she finally landed her dream job. “Ms. Rosa”- Kindergarten Teacher - will be the ringleader for 15 little learners. How I would love to be there on her first day of school, proud papa with my video camera rolling! But I guess I will just have to imagine how exciting her first day will be, bursting with pride nonetheless.

Rosa has been dreaming of this job almost since she was in kindergarten herself. She always loved school and learning, and she loved her teachers. Fortunately, she had many excellent elementary school teachers. One of her favorites was Mrs. Ledger, her first and second grade teacher.

Moving up from kindergarten to a combined first/second grade class in a different school building, Rosa was quite nervous about the step up with the “big kids.” During the summer, she asked for workbooks to practice math and spelling. She was always busy with a sticker book or making paper chains. She even taught herself long division! Finally, a week or so before school, she finished up her last workbook, and carefully printed a note:

“Dear Mrs. Ledger, I am ready. Love, Rosa.”

What a thrill she had this past year when she got to work in that same school she attended as a first and second grader. She had the opportunity to teach with (and learn from) some of her real life heroes who were teachers when she was a student there.

I am sure many parents are pretty nervous about sending their kids off to school for the first time. My wife and I sure were. But parents, you don’t have to worry, Rosa is well prepared, a highly trained professional. She has been working with pre-school and school-age kids for over 10 years as a summer camp counselor at the Y day camp. She taught English to elementary school students in the Marshall Islands. She worked one-on-one with autistic pre-schoolers, preparing them for mainstream kindergarten classes. And she has earned her K-8 certifications in New Hampshire and Maine.

Some of us might think teaching kindergarten can’t be all that complicated, but au contraire! Education at any level today is complex, relying on the latest research and methods to integrate technology, special needs, and proven traditional tools. Rosa is well aware that each child is unique. Children will come from all backgrounds, some with many advantages and some with serious challenges from their early lives. Public school teachers have to work with all walks of life. Success in kindergarten is so important for preparing children for the rest of their school years.

Rosa will work hard to understand each child, and adapt quickly to accommodate the different learning styles inside each little bundle of energy. She will have to communicate and coordinate with the parents, some more engaged than others. She will have to work as a teammate with the other professionals in the school: counselors, para-professionals, administrative staff and janitors. She is a little nervous, but up for the challenge.

This summer while on vacation at the lake, Rosa was working through several teaching guides, such as “The First Six Weeks of School” and “Setting Up the Kindergarten Class.” She has been busy collecting art supplies, stickers, and books for her classroom. And any day now, I expect her to sit down and write a note:

“Dear Children, I am ready. Love, Ms. Rosa.”

David Van Wie is a columnist for The Maine Sportsman. He also is co-author of The Confluence- Fly-fishing and Friendship in the Dartmouth College Grant, to be published in May 2016. He lives in New Gloucester, Maine. © 2015

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