In a few days we will welcome approximately 900 kindergarteners to Whitfield County schools. Most of these children will be excited to begin their educational journeys. A few of them will lose some of their excitement when they realize that they will have to come every school day for the next 13 years.
These 5-year-olds may have a few butterflies in their tummies when they think about being left alone with two strange adults and a room full of friends they haven’t yet met. It is natural for these youngsters to be a little nervous and apprehensive the first few days of school. Their parents may also feel a little anxious as they say goodbye to their children on the first day of school, especially if the child hesitates about staying at school without them.
Parents may be surprised to learn that most teachers also have butterflies in their tummies when they think about meeting their new students and parents for the first time. Teachers feel the full weight of responsibility for the learning that takes place in their classroom for the entire school year, and they want every student to develop to his or her full potential. Kindergarten teachers are so important because they can set the pattern of whether or not children will enjoy school and love learning for the rest of their educational career. I confidently say that all of our teachers want their students to have a successful year by learning a lot and by being prepared for first grade by May.
Children come to school with different talents and different stages of school readiness. These talents must be developed through the nurturing and guidance of a caring teacher. Teachers must meet students on their individual levels and work to bring them all up to first grade readiness within the next nine months. The kindergarten teacher must also teach the children how to get along with others and what the consequences are for not following class rules. This is the first time that many of these children have had this type of discipline. Even if the child attended pre-K, kindergarten requires more structure and the development of more advanced skills in reading and writing, as well as other subject areas. Expectations are high and the kindergarten teacher must know when to correct and when to give words of encouragement.
Having a successful year will depend on a close collaboration between the school and the parents. All children need to begin their school careers with a positive attitude. Children will take their lead from their parents, so parents must be sure to be positive and complimentary when they speak to their children about school. Talk about how great it is going to be at school, about all the new friends they will meet, about school parties and recess games. It is very important to never criticize the teacher in front of the child.
If he or she senses that mom or dad doesn’t like the teacher or that they don’t have confidence in the teacher’s abilities to teach, he or she will not like the teacher either, and one of the most important factors in helping a child learn is building a positive relationship with his teacher.
Remember, parents, your attitude is contagious. If you have a concern, contact the teacher right away and ask to meet to discuss your concerns. You and your child’s teacher have the same goal; you both want what is best for your child. The teacher depends on you to let her know about your child’s interests, talents and fears. The most successful year will result when teachers and parents work together and communicate openly and often.
Judy Gilreath is superintendent of Whitfield County Schools.