Having two other adults in the room is wonderful. A full fifteen minutes before I was due to open my doors, Miss Dickens and and my new assistant and I had nothing to do. I don’t think that has ever happened to me, in 15 years of teaching. We sat and chatted calmly in our small, sweet, clean room.
Then I opened the doors. And while it was hectic, as in years past, it wasn’t nearly so hectic as I’m used to. I also had a special ed teacher for the first hour, so I had plenty of help. The kids were great, and no one cried, and the parents all left voluntarily within fifteen minutes.
We had a lovely morning. After a while of sitting at the tables playing with manipulatives, I taught them what to do when I say “one, two, three, freeze!” and turn out the lights. They all froze and looked at me, and listened while I gave them clean up instructions. We had a very nice first morning meeting, and then we took a tour of our classroom (even the bathroom, with a little potty lesson and a handwashing lesson thrown in). After that I got them to line up in an ABC line for the first time, and we took a tour of our school. We didn’t get to meet the principal (the Princess), but we did get to meet the new music teacher and the assistant nurse in the health office.
One little guy had the hardest time staying in a line, but most of the rest got it pretty quickly. They were so quiet and sweet and safe on the stairs.
We had a lovely recess outside next. One little girl who doesn’t speak English went into the tube on our climber to cry, but when I held out my arms to her, she crawled out and sat on my lap and cried quietly for a little while. I asked her if she was sick or had an owie, and she shook her head “no” to both. I asked her if she missed her mama, and she nodded. So we sat together for a while, and another little girl came to sit with me too, and pretty soon I had the two of them playing together.
We came in, drew self-portraits, and then got ready to go home. (I ran out of time to read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, which was a bummer. Tomorrow.)
Then when we came out the door where I told the parents to meet us outside the school, one little girl’s mom was there. I looked at her. “But…I thought she didn’t come to school today!”
Mom, to her credit, did not yell, cry, or have a heart attack. She said, quite calmly, “But I put her on the bus to school this morning!”
I had to wait outside with the kids whose mothers hadn’t arrived yet, so I sent the mother with Miss Dickens to tell the office we had a missing child. I assured Mom she was probably in kindergarten.
The Princess, the school secretary (TMIPITS — remember: the most important person in the school), a special ed teacher and the lady who takes care of all transportation issues all got on the case.
Meanwhile, I was outside, waiting. The twins’ dad came, and one went to give him a hug. The other wouldn’t take a step, just burst into tears (from zero to sixty in two seconds flat; I was amazed, she had been so happy all day) and yelled, “Daddy! I’m cooooold! I need a blanket!” He came to scoop her up and she sobbed into his shoulder. I guess the stress of the first day of school was there all along, and when she saw her father, she felt like she could let it all out. The cold thing was just a random excuse, I think; we were standing in hot sun when she said that.
Once my lovelies were all picked up, I went in to find that the missing preschooler was still missing. I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. Mom was handling it really well, especially since at the Open House she had been really prickly. (I got the feeling from her that night that she did not have happy memories of school, and felt very uncomfortable in one.)
Finally, she was found outside with the kindergartners. Some adult staffer had greeted her off the bus, quite helpfully, and then taken her to kindergarten without even checking her backpack, where her name was! She doesn’t like to answer to her name, it turns out, and is silent when nervous. So someone probably asked her, “are you in kindergarten?” and she probably just nodded. Then when she wouldn’t say her name, my guess is that the teacher said, “are you Karen?”, and she nodded again. So she spent the morning in the wrong grade with the wrong name!
She and I held hands and practiced what she would do and where she would go when she gets off the bus tomorrow. I will be looking for her, with bells on!