By Alice Munson, Courier & Press, July 13, 2015 –
If you have a little one starting kindergarten in a few weeks, you are probably wondering what to expect. Welcome to a whole new world! It’s definitely not your mother’s kindergarten.
I recently reviewed some 8×10 photos of my kindergarten experience. It appears that my half-day classes concentrated on finger-painting, story time, and playing with dollhouses, fueled by snacks to keep up our energy.
For picture day we were all dressed in our Sunday best. Not surprisingly, my family studied these old photos much like an archeologist might study a fossil.
Today’s full-day kindergarten is a world away from the past. Here are some things that today’s teachers would like parents to know.
Academic standards are much more rigorous than in the past due to preparation for standardized testing. Today’s kindergarten work is closer to what used to be expected of first graders. However, most children are better prepared thanks to preschool, public library programs, etc.
School is so much more than basic math skills and reading. These building blocks prepare students for the more complex subjects they will tackle later.
If you are enthusiastic about learning, your child will be too. It is natural to have some fear of the unknown, but you can make this transition a positive experience.
Developing a good relationship with the teacher is a great help. Liz Blek, president of the National Kindergarten Alliance, stresses, “Parents and kindergarten teachers need to get to know each child … to correctly assess needs, abilities, interests, and learning style to provide the optimum learning environment.”
Additionally, local kindergarten teachers from several schools said they would like parents to know the following:
Safety is their No. 1 priority. Please complete all forms distributed at the beginning of school. It is important to keep emergency contact numbers up-to-date as jobs and phone numbers change. If your child has a medical problem such as asthma or severe allergies, ask your health care provider about keeping an EpiPen or inhaler at school. The school nurse should also be notified of any changes.
Don’t let that cute new backpack turn into a black hole. Empty it daily. Lots of important information is sent home, and it is important to check homework to see what your child is learning.
Help your child master hygiene skills such as sneezing/coughing into the elbow, washing hands, and using the bathroom independently. Self-sufficient children give the teacher more time to teach.
Teachers appreciate communication with parents, but the beginning or end of the school day is busy. Email or phone calls work well so that parent concerns can be given uninterrupted time. Always contact the teacher before contacting an administrator. If an issue can’t be resolved with the teacher, an administrator can take it from there.
If something serious has happened at home (sudden illness, death, parental separation, etc.), please let the teacher know as much as you are comfortable disclosing. Your child may demonstrate changes in behavior, attitude, and work habits. Understanding the family situation allows for additional support for both family and child. The Youth First school social worker may also be helpful.
Kindergarten is the beginning of a parent/school partnership. The school staff realizes children come to school with different levels of readiness, and your child will develop in his own way and time as he is educated and nurtured.
It is wonderful to watch your child’s excitement for learning blossom. By the end of the school year, you will be surprised how your little one has grown in every way.