In my school district, for the past...hmmm...probably 8 years or so...we have run a summer program for the incoming kindergarten students. This program has gone through a few reincarnations over the years, starting as a three week program and changing to a one week program over time. It used to be very structured and rigid and is now more relaxed. It's a fantastic way for the new crop of kindergarten kids to get used to being in school. We have open choice play time, a little bit of physical movement time, we sing songs and do finger plays, we read stories and learn how to sit down, we work on fine motor activities and we even eat lunch together, learning how to manage a lunch tray and socialize with each other.
From a teacher's perspective, it's wonderful to know that at least half of your students each fall have been to the summer program and already know a little something about kindergarten. It's nice to start the year knowing you will already have at least a few good models.
From a parent's perspective, it is also great! My third child is participating in the program this summer. It's nice to know that my child will know a few familiar faces when the school year begins, she will recognize the teachers, she will know a little bit about going to school and what is expected of her while she is at school. My daughter attended a local preschool so she knows a few kids from there but there is a portion of our local population that does not attend a preschool so the program is a nice opportunity for those children especially.
This year the program was held a little earlier than normal, starting in July. JULY!!!! Now, you have to understand that July is like my sacred month. It is the month that I avoid school and school-related things to the best of my ability. It is my month to decompress. I'm done analyzing and reflecting on last year and I'm not thinking about next year yet. It's just my month off. That being said, you can imagine my dread at knowing that the summer program was being held in JULY! Yeah, great program, bad timing.
So...we started on Monday. I was greeted by one very tearful little boy, three "trying-really-hard-not-to-cry-wobbly-chin kiddos, and 6 kids who were ready to go. The wobbly chins soon calmed and the tearful boy finally stopped crying/hiccuping by the end of the first hour. From there, we just had a good day. It was fun to only have 10 kids...yes, you read that right...I only had 10 kids! Now, that is both good and bad. The good - it's only 10 kids! You can do a lot more with your time when you only have 10 kids! And, add to that the fact that I have a parapro to help as well as my student teacher, and that's an amazing kid-adult ratio!
Day one went well once we got past the separation anxiety. Day two started off much better. No tears at all and only one wobbly chin, and that only lasted for about 10 minutes. YES! But the real kicker, the final straw that told me that even though I was there at school when I didn't REALLY want to be, happened this morning.
I was greeting my students at the door as parents and grandparents were dropping them off. I was getting lots of smiles and hearing great comments from parents who told me how much fun their child had had the day before. Then in walked little A, a sweet, outgoing little girl with bright blue eyes and a big warm smile. She smiled at me and then immediately opened her backpack and pulled out a coloring book picture that I recognized from yesterday. I already knew that she took it home to finish it, that she colored the princess's dress blue because it was her favorite color, and that she liked to color but liked all things princess even more. She handed me the finished picture and I told her how beautiful it was. I mentioned how hard she must have worked on it and she just beamed. She leaned up against me, smiled up at me and said, "It's for you!" Her grandma leaned over to me and explained that she just had to bring it to school today to give it to me, her teacher, because she wanted me to have the first picture she ever made at school. Not her mom. Not her dad. Me. The teacher she had known for one day. In some way, I had made a positive impact on that little lady yesterday. In turn, she made a huge impact on me today.
Hmmm...that is exactly why I do what I do. For those moments when you know that what you do everyday matters.
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