First Days for the Next 13 Years

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next 13 yearsYou saw it coming. You imagined it. You felt it with nervous but somewhat euphoric anticipation. And instantly, it’s here, your child’s momentous first day of kindergarten. This feeling will go on for the next 13 years.

After putting each of my own four kids on the school bus for the first time, it was nothing short of a privilege to watch my grandson, now ready to enter kindergarten and formally take on the role of student. Also, amazingly, my youngest child started her last year of high school this year.

All of this got me thinking about our childrens’ journey as a student for over ten years and how it profoundly shapes their future, self-image, college years, and the start of a new career.

Entering kindergarten is probably the most significant transition for a child. I always remember the enormity of change in a child from September to June. They change academically, socially, and emotionally more than any other school year because there’s no going back. And it’s so scary!

Kindergarten establishes a solid foundation for your child to become a student through routine, repetition, and direction. And, of course, a kind kindergarten teacher is behind all the magic. I have yet to meet one that isn’t. Most teachers in charge of a big bunch of 4 to 6-year-olds knew the drill when they took on the job! And most adults still carry fond memories of their kindergarten teachers.

They are nurturing but firm, patient, and caring for their students’ physical and emotional needs. Sounds much like a parent, but so necessary at this age. Yet somehow, with all this going on, these young children acquire academic skills at their own pace.

And therein lies the conflict for the first year of school and all the years to come. From elementary through middle and high school, teachers meet the needs and create a balance so each child can progress in their writing, verbal, and math skills. At the same time, teachers try not to overwhelm or underwhelm them to be happy at school, most days, at least.

And from what I learned over the years, the essential factor in achieving this is developing an effective relationship between teacher and parent. You know your own child best and can advocate for your child if you only choose to be honest and fair with your child’s teacher. Both of your goals are the same; helping them succeed at school to the best of their ability.

Secondly, make sure socially, your student is okay too. Incredible bonds between kids form at a young age. Watch and keep track of their circle of friends and mood in school. Relatively happy students thrive in their learning, but those who are not probably won’t, regardless of their ability. If issues arise with your child, try to correct them as soon as possible, so they can make progress, even if it means changing a class or a teacher.

Thirdly, we need to accept our child’s weaknesses and strengths and help them in academic areas if struggling. And most likely, these qualities keep emerging throughout all school grades, and that’s perfectly fine, and occasionally you have a student that excels at all subjects. In the end, you hope your child’s educator recognizes all this too.

Lastly, speaking from personal experience, the conscientious student, the struggling student, and the careless but capable student can all grow up and emerge as responsible adults working in an occupation or career that suits them and allows them to enjoy financial success and be happy. I have seen it happen, and I only wish for my high school senior to do the same.

They all eventually find their way in college and a career. In the meantime, as parents, the important thing is we are present for them. And even though it seems unfathomable, someday sooner than you think, the last day of those 13 years rolls around, and your kindergartner is all grown up. So in the meantime, enjoy your student at every precious age!

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