Ah, back to school time! Nothing screams nostalgia like the scent of brand new crayons and the alluring sheen of untouched markers. But if you are the parent of a kindergarten student, the beginning of this school year might be more bittersweet than anything else. As a kindergarten teacher of 10 years, I have seen my share of nervous and excited parents walk through my door. It’s the beginning of a new adventure of formal learning, and I know that all of us, you, your child and their teacher, just want to get it right. Kindergarten teachers are a unique mix of fun and structure, compassion and discipline. We are passionate about what we do and honor our roles as the first step in your child’s educational journey. As you walk into your child’s classroom and shake the hand of their kindergarten teacher, understand that beneath their steady, comforting smile, there are some things we want (read: need) you to know.
1. We know what we are doing.
Don’t be fooled by the smiling owl that floats above our door, beckoning you to come in and find out “Whoooo’s Ready to Read?” Kindergarten looks like child’s play, but teachers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a rapidly growing number of them hold a master’s and above. Like Liam Neeson, we have a very particular set of skills that we have acquired over our careers and we aren’t afraid to use them to reach each and every learner in our room. When our own resources don’t meet the need, we will reach out to the experts we trust the most, and tailor our instruction and your child’s learning to ensure that they are getting everything they need from our time together each day. Underneath our cloud of glitter and curious penchant for googly eyes, we are experts in our field and want the same thing that you do: the very best for your child.
2. Your child is listening.
If the CIA were smart, they’d employ five-year-olds as spies to uncover the deep, dark secrets of the world. Your child is a master at looking oblivious while absorbing everything going on around them. Whether it was your fight with your spouse, the curse words that you never use, or the vile details of the slasher flick that you, not they, were watching in the background, rest assured your child heard it all and will not hesitate to share it—usually during circle time, as the teacher reads a story about a magical unicorn saving a kingdom of kittens. Maybe the CIA knows what they’re doing after all. For the benefit of your child’s teacher, their peers, and most importantly, them, please be careful of what is happening in their environment, even if you think they aren’t listening. They are growing into the adults they will someday be. Let’s help them be the best!
3. We promise to only believe half of what they tell us about you, if you promise to only believe half of what you hear about our classroom.
Five-year-olds are amazing storytellers, and what they don’t remember or fully understand they gladly fill in with their own details. Your sweetheart will gleefully share anecdotes from their lives and the less you want us to know about something (see above), the more we can guarantee we’ll hear about it the very next morning. The same goes for our classrooms. Not every moment spent in a room of 20 five-year-olds is going to be perfect (shocking, I know). If you promise not to judge us for the occasional lapse, we promise not to judge you for the creative language you used when the driver cut you off in traffic last night. Yeah, we heard. And it was awesome.
4. Your child is not perfect.
They aren’t supposed to be. Five-year-olds are strange creatures. They eat glue, lick their friends, and forget to go to the bathroom. They also hit and yell and say mean things. While we understand that these things are not okay, we know that it’s not the end of the world. Please don’t feel that you need to call and apologize every time your child steps out of line. Kindergarten is about learning and trying new things and, sometimes, the new things kids try don’t work out so well. When your child receives a consequence at school, their teacher doesn’t love them an ounce less and doesn’t judge your parenting; our goal is for your child to learn to be the best they can be and we fully embrace that mistakes help them along their way. So don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t be ashamed to giggle (behind their backs, of course) over what your angel did at school today. Laughing at our kids is one of the great paychecks of parenthood, isn’t it? You can be sure we are smiling, too.
5. We are all in this together.
Truly. When we discipline your child, we aren’t attacking them. When we offer suggestions, we aren’t judging you. Teachers are teachers for one simple reason: We love kids. We love your kids. We will plan all summer long to make the year awesome for kids we haven’t met yet. We will fret all year long over the kids that have stolen our hearts. We will love forever the kids that have moved on from our lives. While we know our love is a mere shadow of how much you love your babies, don’t doubt for a moment that our hearts aren’t completely in all we do. We will plan for, dream for, and fight for what’s best for every child in our classroom each year. We will work tirelessly to be sure that they are learning all they can and are getting everything they need.
And, if something stands in our way, we won’t be afraid to take off our apple-pocketed aprons and go all Liam Neeson on the world.