Sometimes it seems like the first days of school go on and on. Last week was the official first day of school, but only for an hour and not for my kindergartener. She dressed up anyway to celebrate her brother’s first day. Her first "day" in the classroom was a twenty-minute parent-child meeting with the teacher. And nearly a week after everyone else started school, the kindergarteners spent two one-hour mornings in the classroom before finally attending for the full three hours. Aside from the obvious difficulties arranging childcare with half-day kindergarten (the half-day/full-day debate is a topic in itself!), the daytime interviews and delayed start of kindergarten make childcare arrangements a challenge for working parents. I feel fortunate to have a flexible schedule to accommodate juggling the pick-ups from school, but I know parents who’ve had to change schools to be closer to after-school care programs.
Meanwhile my fourth-grade son and his fellow first- through seventh-graders were assigned homeroom teachers for the first week, but we wouldn’t know their permanent classroom assignments until the following week. They spent the first week in mixed grade “family” groupings, moving from teacher to teacher. My son had another first day of school the second week when he spent his first day in his permanent classroom assignment for the year.
The unsettled first weeks seem odd to me because I remember always knowing ahead of time who my next teacher would be. My kids’ situation is not unusual in our district, though. The cynical view of all this moving around is that school administrators just need to kill time while they determine enrollment and finalize hiring. Of course this is true, but I’ve come to view the crazy first week in a more positive light. As the students spend time with different age groups and with teachers they might not ever have, the kids and staff get to know one another. The process is fun for most students and makes for a strong school community. And we have an excellent school principal who I trust to structure worthwhile programming. My son hates to miss the first week, even though we’ve talked about doing what some families do: staying home or taking a holiday until teacher assignments are set.
Although the lack of structure in the first week is difficult for some children, it’s usually us parents who are bothered. We’re on pins and needles hoping our kids will get preferred teachers, and we quiz our kids about what classrooms they’ve been in as we search for clues as to the identity of their assigned teacher. When kids leave school Friday afternoon with their classroom assignments, we parents run around the playground asking one another, “Who’d you get?” while our kids say, “Come on, stop talking! Let’s go home!”
In about a month my daughter will have another first day when she meets her current teacher’s maternity leave replacement. The children are already being prepared for the transition. However, knowing us parents, we’ll fuss about the lack of continuity in our kids’ lives, about not knowing who the replacement is, and about how our kids will manage the change. Here’s a case, though, where we might need to keep our concerns to ourselves (unlike the situation Susan O’Doherty discusses in her post this week — wow!). I have a feeling the kids will take it all in stride, if we don’t let our worries influence their view of the new situation. If only these firsts would end, though! Oh, for a routine we can count on!