In a week’s time another school year will begin. As you’re trying to match names to the 20 or more new faces who will have just entered your classroom, trying to get them organized, trying to get into the rhythm of another school year, sometimes things can be overlooked, misunderstood, or forgotten. In the chaos of that first day and first week, you rarely get to know everything about your new students that you want to know.
I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to my daughter…really introduce her to you.
Her name is Makenna. Not McKenna. Not Mackenna. It’s Makenna. She turns 6 two days before school begins and is ready for Grade 1. She loved the two years spent in JK and SK, adored her teacher and made good friends. It was a wonderful foundation for her, one that cemented the love of learning she has had since she was a toddler.
For those that are long past Kindergarten, it’s easy to forget that Grade one is a transition year; one that brings many changes for a child. While some children adapt well to change, others seem to need more time to adjust. This year for the first time Makenna has a different teacher, one she doesn’t know. There will be kids in her class she hasn’t met before and now she’s going to school all day every day. This is her first year going full time and above all else, she is going to be tired. Makenna cries easily when she is overtired and I expect the months of September through December to be an interesting transition time for us at home as well.
In addition, this year the school itself is different. Makenna has never been here before. She has a different, longer walk to and from school each day, a different playground, different entrance and exit points, a different classroom, different bathrooms, that are for the first time not within her own classroom, and different hallways to find her way around. .
In the previous two years as a Kindergarten student, she was accustomed to having her own entrance, her own playground and was used to just being around her own little group of peers at recess time. The Kindergarten teachers held their students in the classroom at the end of the day until they could see the person that was picking them up, ensuring their exit from school each day was a safe one.
Now that she’s a “big kid”, my little girl will be playing on a much bigger playground at recess time with many more kids, a change I’m sure she will welcome. When the bell rings at the end of the day, she will be released outside with the rest of the kids from grades 1-6 and will meet up with the older student who will be responsible for walking her home. I’ll be honest; this mass exit that my little 6 year old will be a part of at the end of the day, her being on her own as she scans the crowd for the older students she will walk home with…this does worry me a bit, as does the knowledge that there will not be a teacher watching to guarantee that she, and every other child, was taken home by the person they were supposed to go with…I guess that’s the “Mom” coming out in me… of course we have had and will continue to have, conversations about strangers, and who she is allowed to leave the school with, and I know that once she gets used to the routine, she’ll be fine. In time, so will I.
In saying all of that, I want to assure you that none of these changes are being viewed in a negative way…they are just different. I believe it is worth saying how everything must feel from the child’s viewpoint. I don’t think the possible impact of all of these changes, or the time needed to adjust to them, should be overlooked or underestimated. Being the teacher of this grade, and faced with the job or guiding the students through these transitions, I do not envy you.
Now that she is no longer in Kindergarten, she is in many ways viewed as “a big kid”…but she is still only 6. Barely 6. She is still one of the youngest of the “big kids”….still very much a little girl who needs a nightlight...who cries when she can’t find us in the dark. My little girl.
But what I really want you to know is who she is. You will learn about her academic abilities and tell me what kind of a student she is, but I want you to know what kind of a person she is.
Makenna is a treasure. She is kind and gentle and patient. She loves younger children and animals and has such a big heart. She is a born helper and a born teacher. She learns quickly and is always encouraging her friends as they are learning something new. She is genuinely invested in their wellbeing.
She is sensitive and perceptive. She feels deeply, and with her whole heart. She can be very quiet though, and won’t always ask for help when she needs it. She embarrasses easily… if she were to spill something on her shirt, or forget where the bathroom is, or if she can’t open her lunch container…she will feel embarassed, but will try to keep it inside and is not likely to ask for help, for fear of being teased.
Makenna looks through the world with rose coloured glasses, is a peacemaker, and loves so whole heartedly, so easily. But, because of this, her heart is easily hurt. She takes criticism very seriously, even if you’re trying to help. She has a mighty spirit, but it bruises easily by harsh words, harsh tones and impatience. She doesn’t forget. Anything. Ever. Experiences, impressions and feelings stay with her for a very long time. She likes to play with everyone, makes friends with everyone and considers everyone equal, on all levels...she doesn’t know any different, and she shouldn’t. She is an innocent little girl who has, thankfully, led an uneventful life thus far.
She learns quickly and needs to be challenged. I hope you will challenge her to learn as much as she can, to do as much as she can, even if it surpasses what you are required to teach her. If she can read what is expected of her at the grade one level, I hope you will challenge her with books that will hold her interest. Makenna looked up to her previous teacher and respected her because she took the time to challenge her. I hope, so much, that she will have a positive relationship with you as well.
I know that the student/teacher relationship can have a huge impact on how the year progresses….I know too that some teachers and students just don’t mesh well together… and I know that as a teacher, you are faced with the task of inspiring, teaching, protecting and guiding more students than you can possibly devote the proper time to. Some students will stand out and form a bond with you while others will make their way through the year quietly. They may not stand out, may not draw a lot of attention to themselves. Regardless of the role my daughter takes in your classroom, what I want you to know is that Makenna is a sweet, good, happy, wonderful girl who is not at all hard to get along with, and loves to be inspired. She is easy to teach, full of questions, loves to learn, and ready to be challenged. Her enthusiasm and spirit is infectious and you can’t help but be drawn in. I am trusting you with her for 6 hours every day…please take good care of her, please remember that she is still somebody’s little girl and if you let her, she will brighten your year.
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