My sister-in-law, Stephanie is a kindergarten teacher. Last year when my son was getting ready to start school, I picked her brain like crazy. Later in the year, when any issue came up, big or small, I used her as a sounding board as well. I’m sure everyone she knows hits her up for advice when they have kids heading to school, and she never seems to tire of discussing her profession and her classroom.
Steph is the type of teacher you want your kid to have. She is nurturing and kind, with an infinite amount of patience for kids, a sense of fun, and an outstanding laugh. I remember watching her spend hours on lesson plans in the summer and during school breaks, and the amount of money she personally spends on her classroom is astounding.
I know that Steph is like many teachers – passionate, engaged, and willing to make sacrifices to provide the best experience for her students – and my hope is that every kid gets this teacher, especially for the first year of elementary school.
I asked for your questions on my Facebook page, and Stephanie is answering them today!
1. What can parents do in the months leading up to kindergarten to prepare their children for school?
Academic expectations vary from town to town, so I am going to play it safe and share some broader ideas. Read to your child every night. Help them learn to love books by finding ones that spark their interest. There are so many options when it comes to children’s books these days especially at your local library. Make learning part of your daily routine. Count in the car. Talk about your day and build vocabulary.
Socially, help your child build confidence by giving them responsibilities at home. Doing some simple chores is a great way to build independence, boost their self-esteem, and learn to follow directions. Playing with peers and learning how to get along with others is incredibly important. When your child has a disagreement with a friend help them learn to problem solve by talking them through it.
2. How can we reassure a nervous child?
Be excited about school! Talk it up! Share your favorite memories from your school days with your child. Read stories about kindergarten (there are a lot of great ones to choose from). Although sending your sweet child to school can be hard on a mama’s heart, they don’t need to know how much. They can sense a parent’s fear. Be fearless!
3. On the first day of school, what, in your experience makes for a smooth start? (Parents coming into the classroom vs just doing normal drop-off, etc.)
The first day of kindergarten is filled with a lot of excitement. Schools have different rules on parents coming into the classroom. Where I teach, parents can walk students to the room. So…on the first day of school moms and dads help their child find their cubby, give hugs and kisses, and wave good bye just as they would any other day.
4. How do you feel about red shirting? How has the trend impacted your classroom?
I am asked this question A LOT and there are many of things to take into consideration. The number one thing is your child’s maturity level. If your child has a summer birthday, but they have strong social skills and are interested in learning then I would encourage the parent to give kindergarten a go. However, if your child seems a little young for his/her age and you have this feeling he/she just isn’t ready, why push them too early?
I have had a student who turned 5 the day before school started (our school’s cutoff) and read like a champ and had amazing social skills. I also had students who were six and less mature than younger students. Every child is unique and so is their development. Red shirting is not the best choice for everyone, but sometimes when carefully considered it is the best option.
5. Everyone wants to know, are our kids talking about us? They’re saying embarrassing things, right?
True. They do say anything and everything. Not in a way that is tattling on their parents or anything like that. They are just so honest about everything and they like to blurt. Don’t worry! Teachers know kids exaggerate things a little.
6. Do you find parent involvement in the classroom helpful, or is it a pain in the ass?
The kids love it! I love it! The only thing that can make volunteers a little difficult to manage is when they don’t show up and don’t call to let me know they’re not coming.
7. How do you communicate with your parents? Do you prefer email or phone calls?
I do both. Not all of my families have access to a computer or the internet. I use phone calls when I want to share something that needs to be said in a sensitive way or if I want to discuss something at length. It just depends. For small stuff – email. For big stuff and some fun stuff – phone.
8. Do you see bullying behavior at this age? How is it handled?
There are children that do and say mean spirited things. It is not allowed. We do a lot of preventative teaching to help students know how to treat others.
9. What is the best thing about kindergartners?
Kindergarteners are so fun. They think I’m hilarious and they love to learn. My first year of teaching really inflated my ego. All day long my kinders would laugh at all of my jokes, but outside the classroom people didn’t think I was quite as funny. I love that they are honest and love to do homework. I love that they want to hear the same stories over and over again. I love that they learn to do so many things for the first time in kindergarten…spell their first word, read their first book, make their first school friend, write their first sentence, do their first story problem. Kindergarten really is magical.
10. Can you share a story?
I’m short. Because I’m short, like 5 feet short, my kinders often think I am a kid, which leads me to two stories.
One night, I bought some new binders and a few new things for around the room. When I opened the classroom door for my students the next morning one of my kinders looked around and exclaimed, “It looks like somebody’s mommy took her shopping last night!”
One day as I was walking my kids to the bus, one of my kinders asked me if I was going to the carnival that night. “No buddy. It seems like fun but I can’t.” His reply, “Just ask your mommy! I bet she’ll let you go!”
My son’s name is Reed. He is one and last year my kinders loved it when he would stop by for a random visit. On one such occasion this conversation happened.
Student: “What is your baby’s name again?”
Student: “I will, but what is your baby’s name?”
Student: “Yeah, I know. I will, but what is your baby’s name.”
Me: “No, my baby’s name is Reed.”
Student: “Oh. That’s weird.”