In a previous post I (yiola) shared information about my experience as a parent with a child entering Full Day Kindergarten (FDK).
A letter did arrive from the school in early August that shared information about my Sylvia Clare’s school, classroom and teachers. Drop off and entry routines routines, school hours, suggestions for snacks and lunches, back packs and what to have in them, and kinds of shoes and clothing were all listed in the letter. The letter was detailed and comprehensive; enough information to get us started and feeling confident. We were also informed that Sylvia Clare’s first day of school is Friday September 5th (a staggered start for the JKs). Oh the first day of school…. there are so many perspectives, feelings, emotions connected to the first day of school.
My family visited the school earlier this week to meet the teachers and check out the classroom. We walked into the school and were greeted by the vice-principal. “Well hello and welcome! What is your name sweetheart?” asks the vice-principal. Sylvia Clare rushes to hide her face behind my legs and says “NUFFING!'” (nothing)… I turn a soft shade a red and try to encourage my daughter to say her name… she digs deeper into my back for cover.
We made our way to the classroom. It is the smallest classroom of the five I wrote about earlier. The room will host 30 students. This concerns me. The teachers greeted us and we had some time to explore the classroom together. Everything, according to my teacher education self, looked fantastic: neutral, calm colours, brand new wooden materials and furniture, accessible shelves, colourful and plentiful picture books, walls free of borders and posters ready for students to share their learning.
The classroom teacher showed Sylvia Clare where she would enter and how she was expected to arrive into the classroom. We went into the “cubby room” where there were 20 cubbies for 30 expected students. Here Sylvia Clare will need to drop off her jacket and backpack, unload her lunch bag into the cubby above the hook and put on her indoor shoes. We then went to the carpet area where the teacher explained some of the basic school routines: school entry, attendance, outdoor play or physical education, followed by ‘free play’.
In terms of literacy development the early childhood educator (ECE) explained it would be taught subtly. For example, children’s names would be shared on the board and students, together, identify their names and the first letter of their names. It would be done through games and in ways that were free of pressure. This delighted me. I was assured that there would not be the pressure of the ‘sit down, work sheet’ style of learning literacy and numeracy. The teachers explained that student inquiry will drive the program. While students freely explore the materials in the classroom and build and share their ideas and interests teachers will design the content. Language and vocabulary will be built based on student interest. It was also explained to me that one-on-one and small group time would be developed so literacy lessons could take place with one of the teachers while the other teacher would work with the larger group on my inquiry/play based programs.
Sylvia Clare drew for her teachers a picture as we spoke about assessment (there is a new provincial report card coming out this year!), portfolios, field trips, volunteer opportunities, and the importance of validating and appreciating Sylvia Clare’s ‘uber’ long last name.
I’m not entirely sure how Sylvia Clare felt about her very first visit. She hasn’t said too much about it either way. I want Sylvia Clare to feel happy. I want her to jump out of bed every morning and say “Hurry mom! Let’s go to school”. I want her to make friends and to play freely and securely each day. If these things happen in the first months of JK, my hopes for my Sylvia Clare will have been met.
Her first day is this Friday and again, I will share from time to time what I am seeing and learning about literacy teaching in the early years from a parent (and teacher educator) perspective.