Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Start of Something Good

Teaching young children is like growing a garden, you get to see everything from sobbing and knowing nothing on the first day of school to the development of competent readers and writers who vow they'll miss you forever on the last day of school.
One of my--ahem--cherubs was just such a girl.  I had educated her older two sisters, who were both bright and willing to help, and I expected much of the same. What actually happened took me by surprise. I've crafted a short story to give you the basics of her first day of kindergarten:

          I glared at the airplane thingy stuck on the front of the school.  
          There was no way I was going under that thing or through those big glass doors, no matter what was behind them.  My sisters, after saying hello to everyone, had already gone in, but I wasn't going to follow. No matter what they'd told me about school, I just wanted to be home.
          “Come along, m’hija,” Mom said quietly, her warm hand tugging mine. "It's time for school. Your teacher will be waiting." 
          I fixed my big brown eyes on her. It didn't matter that I was only five. I already knew what my big eyes could do. You'd see. She'd cave in a minute, and then it would be home, my favorite cereal, and cartoons galore.
          Mom didn't look convinced. She raised her eyebrows and gave me the Mommy Look instead.
          Usually, being the smallest in the family means I do what I want. Today, being the smallest meant that if she towed me where I didn't want to go, I had no choice but to follow.
          We passed through the big glass doors and were swallowed up by too much noise and too many long legs. A few kids peeking through their parents legs like me, but most of them hurried off and left their parents behind.  I could never do that.
          A wall of windows, the sun glaring through them, stretched in front of us. Between the brightness, the noise, and all the people, it was too much.  I tried to hide behind mom, but she didn't give me the chance. To both sides branched wide, white hallways, like at the hospital.  My stomach felt funny just thinking about it. When Ana had gotten hurt, we'd all gone to the hospital. 
          I hated it. 
          Remembering she'd gotten hurt at school, I tried to dig my heels in, but the floor was too slippery. Mom didn't seem to be bothered by any of it.  Ignoring everything, she led me down one of the hallways.  More glass doors stood at the end of the hall. Had I won? Looking at the doors, my insides felt less funny. Home, cereal, and cartoons, here I come!
          Right before we got there, mom turned again and I lost sight of the way out and forgot about cartoons for a second. In front of me were kids my size with Dora, Barbie, and Sponge Bob backpacks strapped to their backs. I wanted a closer look at them, but not if it meant staying at school. 
          Parents helped kids put their things away, took pictures, and shelled out kisses and hugs. Were they all leaving? Would my mom leave? I dug in my heels the best I could. I wasn't going any further. The only place I was going was home.
          Mom turned to me and crouched down so she was looking right in my eyes and said in her softest voice, “You're going to be fine. Your sisters loved kindergarten.”
I didn't believe her, but I didn't have time to think about it because that's when she got there.  I'd seen her before.
          “Good morning, Mari. How are you?” she asked. Unlike mom's, her voice was loud. And how did she know my name? 
          “Are you ready for kindergarten?” Her smile—like the rest of her—was too big. She was even bigger than daddy.
          Tears splashed down my cheeks. Mom was going to leave me with this big lady! I flung my arms around my mom. She wasn't leaving without me.
          Her big brown eyes were sad as she peeled me off and passed me to the big lady. The big lady's hand went to my back as she steered me to a room full of bright colors and strange girls and boys. I glanced back at mom, trying to decide if I could make it back to her.  She smiled a little smile at me.
          Just then the big lady crouched down to whisper in my ear, “You know, Mari, there are so many fun things waiting for you. And I already know we're going to be good friends.”
          Her warm hand on my back and her words still in my ears, something inside me grew less scared. I looked back at mom one more time, and taking a deep breath, I stepped into the classroom.

 * * * * *
I'd like to say it was that easy.  In reality, the little friend in question spent the better part of the first month of school sobbing and refusing to eat breakfast for the first 20 minutes of every day. However, in the end she became one of my greatest success stories.  Not only does she read and write beautifully, but she is confident and happy at school and simply adores me.  (That last part probably isn't important from an educational standpoint, but I really did tell her we were going to be best friends, because even with all those tear, I had that feeling from the get-go.)

For more of my adventures in kindergarten, read Closing Time and Run, Forrest, RUN! And if you ever need a slice of sunshine, feel free to volunteer at your local elementary school.  Seriously, little people are the most gracious and welcoming individuals I know.


  1. I was the little girl who didn't want to go to school.

    1. I think we all were! I was happy my best friend from across the street was with me or I might have not been brave enough to go. I hope you too had a kind teacher like I did (and try to be).

  2. Oh, the memories... I went to kindergarten in the local Community Church, in a room added onto the back. I don't remember my mother leaving but suddenly I saw I was alone, I tried to push between two short tables to sit down but they wouldn't budge. That's when the tears came and I cried, "I want my Mommy! I want to go home!" Fortunately I had a wonderful teacher who took care of me. Teachers are Great!

  3. Then there was Josh's first day at K-garten. He knew I had to leave him, but he wasn't too happy about it. I told him I'd be back in two hours. When I went to pick him up, I asked, "There Now, did that seem like a long time, or a short time?" Josh replied, "That didn't seem like a long time, it WAS a Long Time!!"

    1. We're so used to crying & kids missing their families that we just learn to work around it. But we do create a safe, happy place where we can grow together. Thanks for sharing, auntie!

  4. I haven't been in the classroom as a teacher in over 6 years but this made me remember why I loved it. Being trusted with others children and watching them grow and change into who they are meant to be is an absolute joy! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. I'm glad if it brought back some good memories for you. It is a huge responsibility to care for others' children, but such an opportunity to grow together. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Hi Sarah, I'm visiting via Gina's blog and am glad to read that that little girl has now overcome her anxieties about school!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Kids are amazingly resilient. Once they find out school is a safe, happy place they settle right in and start telling me how to run things. :)