Have plenty of Band-Aids, hand sanitiser and patience at the ready. That’s the advice Kate Jones has for kindergarten teachers as the school year kicks off and little learners enter the classroom for the first time.
Jones, assistant principal at Orange Grove Public School in Sydney’s Lilyfield, is teaching kindergarten for the second time this year.
She says parents of young students should be prepared for teachers to know a lot about their lives. Kindy pupils tend to tell their teacher what they had for breakfast, who is visiting their family and what mum or dad bought on the weekend.
“My favourite was when one student came to school looking very nervous and confused,” Jones says.
“I didn't even get a chance to ask before he blurted out, 'Mum said it was a secret ... but we had nits yesterday, that's why I wasn't at school'. Nothing strikes fear into a teacher quite like the dropping of a nits comment.”
While there will likely be tears on that first day, more often than not they are coming from parents, Jones says. It’s a huge day for parents as, for some, this is the first time they have left their child in the hands of another person.
“You may struggle with this letting go more than they will, but they are ready, trust me,” she says.
In the lead up to the first day, let children organise and pack their lunch box and bag. Keep up the positive talk about school and prepare them for being more independent. Give them the opportunity to be problem-solvers in their everyday lives and to apply this at school.
During that busy first week, parents should ask questions and get children to show them where their classroom is and where they play. “Cherish these moments, parents, as this year you will see a huge amount of growth in their learning,” Jones says.
Teachers should introduce themselves to students on the first day. Jones says kindergarten students are intrigued by teachers, so let them know who you are and that you care about them. Don't forget to allow them to share also. They will literally be bursting at the seams to share every detail of their lives. Don’t be surprised if they come out with great one-liners and interesting observations out of nowhere.
Her advice to teachers is to never underestimate these “wonderful little people”.
“Kindy students have such a fresh and unadulterated notion of schooling and be sure not to squash this when moulding them into lifelong learners,” she says.