It’s almost that time of year! Back to school is coming. If you are sending a child to kindergarten this year, you probably have a lot of questions or concerns about the transition and what to expect.
Having taught kindergarten for six years, I’ve talked with parents experiencing a wide range of emotions. Some are doing the happy dance as their child becomes more independent and takes on this new milestone. Others are weepy and anxiety-ridden over their baby heading off to school, and still others fall somewhere in between.
No matter how you are feeling about the transition there are some common questions that come up, and there are many things kindergarten teachers would like parents to know.
What Kindergarten Teachers Want You to Know About Back to School
Based on my experience as a teacher and a parent, I think your child’s kindergarten teacher wants you to know:
I will do my best to make this a positive experience for you and your child. Join me by keeping the lines of communication open. If you have questions about our class procedures or anything related to your child, please contact me.
When you do need to reach me, please use the contact methods I have provided. If you have an urgent message that must be shared in the middle of the school day, please contact the front office. I am actively working with your little ones throughout the days, so I often don’t have time to check voicemail or email during the school day.
Your child is in good hands. Trust me. I know it is hard to send your baby into a classroom in a big school all day. I promise I will do my best to keep your child safe, happy, and learning.
It may be different, but it will be okay. Kindergarten is not the same as preschool. There are many differences, some big, some small. If you have questions about policies or procedures that are different, please discuss them with me. I will do my best to explain why some policies are different, but sometimes that’s just the way it is and I am just following the rules I have been given.
I care about you and your child, and I want to be your partner this school year.
Buying School Supplies Early Helps
It’s best to buy all school supplies at the beginning of the year. I know back to school can be expensive. It’s expensive for teachers too. I understand. But from experience I can tell you that the best sales happen at the beginning of the year. So save tons by checking the sales ads and stocking up on supplies for the classroom and your home.
Please buy exactly what is on the school supply list. In kindergarten we often have community supplies. That means we share them, so it helps tremendously if they are all similar.
Supplies are heavy. If you can’t bring supplies in person before the school year starts, go ahead and send them in a little at a time so your child can carry them easily.
Buy a full-size backpack. Yes, mini backpacks are cute and those full-size backpacks look huge on little ones. However, by the time you add sweaters and any projects we create in class those mini backpacks just don’t cut it for kindergarten. Target has backpack designs and styles that kids love, and from experience they hold up very well through the school year.
Transitions Can Be Tough
Even if your child has been going to preschool or daycare for years the transition to kindergarten can be a big one. Your child may be more tired than usual. He or she may be irritable or emotional while sorting out all of the new experiences and people in our school. Be patient. Keep a consistent bedtime routine, and adjust the time so that your child gets extra rest if needed. Some kids may even say they don’t like school. This can happen when kids feel overwhelmed. Listen and be reassuring, but give it time. Don’t immediately assume the classroom/school is a bad fit for your child. More than likely this feeling will pass and your child will be loving school in no time.
Even if your child has been potty trained for years, some kids may have potty accidents those first few weeks of school. You can help by packing a change of clothes in your child’s backpack and talking with your child about the bathroom location and procedures in the classroom (as well as at lunch and at special areas like music, PE and art). Some kids are nervous about asking to use the restroom, so role playing the classroom procedures at home can help. Other kids are fearful of the bathrooms at school. Some restrooms flush loudly, have loud hand dryers, or have awkward lighting. If your school has an open house or meet the teacher, take your child into the restroom to test it out. If your child seems to be avoiding the restroom, try to find out why and then work with the teacher to develop a strategy.
Make goodbyes positive and brief on the first day of school. I know this is a big day. It can be hard to say goodbye to your little one, but long drawn-out goodbyes only make it worse for you and your child. Give a reassuring hug. Tell your child when you will see him or her next and then leave. I will make sure your child feels safe and comfortable and knows you are coming back.
Your child will make friends but it may take time. If your child doesn’t already know some kids in the class, it may take a little while before new “friends” are mentioned at home. If you ask who your child played with today, he or she may say “nobody.” Most often that doesn’t mean your child was sad and alone all day. It could mean there are so many new things to see and toys to play with that your child was busy exploring and did not play with others yet. It could also mean that he or she simply doesn’t remember the name of the kids from playtime. Give it time, and your child will be naming all sorts of kids from our class.
Even if your child can’t remember what we did today I assure you we were busy! In the course of a day in kindergarten we can literally do hundreds of activities—from songs, to dancing, to reading, to counting, to experimenting, and more. It can be hard to recall just one thing from our day, but keep asking and those memories will trickle out here and there in your conversations.
Little Details Make a Big Difference
Label your child’s belongings. Remember all those awesome supplies and clothes you bought? Grab a Sharpie, and label anything that your child might lose…lunchboxes, drink bottles, jackets, backpacks, hats, etc. You’ll thank me…and I’ll thank you too!
Label your CHILD the first few days of school. This sounds silly, but it helps. Kindergarteners are notorious for staring blankly when spoken to by new adults. Grab that Sharpie again and write your child’s name, lunch number (if applicable at your school) and method of transportation home on a label, masking tape or necklace. Place this on your child somewhere so he or she can be easily identified by adults on campus. (Note: Do not do this if your child walks to school or would be seen by adults off campus.)
If your child will be bringing a lunch to school, practice opening and closing items. Drinks, containers, individually packed snacks, yogurts and other items can be challenging for kids to open without practice. While you’re shopping for school supplies, take some time to explore the different lunch accessories they offer. Have your child choose a lunchbox, drink container, and individual storage containers that can be opened independently. Before school starts have some picnics and make sure your child can open and close all the items inside the lunchbox.
Keep toys and treasures at home. Again trust me. It’s just easier.
Kindergarten is going to ROCK!
Like every other year in your child’s life, this one is going to fly by. Enjoy it!
So what do you think? Did I touch on some of your biggest questions? What other questions do you have about getting ready for kindergarten? If you’re a teacher, did I get it right? What else would you want parents to know?
If you have a little one entering kindergarten this year, you might also find a little encouragement in this article, What I Want My Child’s Kindergarten Teacher to Know.