JK – A Parent’s Perspective
I remember distinctly my son’s first day of junior kindergarten (JK) – his nervousness; the tenderness we all three [as a family] felt; and the tears that streamed down his chubby little cheeks as we bid him good-bye and good-luck on his first day of JK. I remember how empty and lost I felt as my husband and I walked home. Without Liam by my side I did not know what to do. My daily routine was dramatically altered as I struggled to find ways to fill my seconds, minutes, and hours. I had been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years, catering to the needs of my child, my own health, and my family. Yes, I worked evenings and weekends, but now I was facing a long succession of empty days. What was I to do?
Yet 10 busy months have passed. And as I sit here and reminisce over that first day of JK, I am left in disbelief that this school year is drawing to a close. In just 3 short days my little boy will graduate JK. He will finish his first year of school. He will be the helper, the role model, the SK in the school year to come. With this in mind, I wanted to sit back and share a parent’s perspective on JK – one that is not often mentioned – just as I wish someone would have done for me.
There Will Be Many Tears and Many Triumphs. Countless numbers of days my son cried. He cried when I dropped him off at school. He cried to come home. He cried because he missed me. He cried when a fellow classmate hurt or injured him. He cried when a substitute teacher arrived on the school steps to lead the class inside. He cried – a lot. Often at the end of the day, I would find balled-up tissue in his pants pocket. I would ask “Sweetheart, did you cry today?” and sometimes he would disclose the reason for his tears. Sometimes he simply would not. The days he would not were the days that frightened me. When did my little one stop sharing with me? However, despite all the tears, there were also many triumphs – that moment he spelled his name all by himself; that moment he learned how to use scissors; that moment he overcame his shyness and proudly shared his show-and-share with the class, engaging his classmates in conversation and confidently answering their questions; that moment he won a prize for working as hard as he did on his levelled reading books; that moment he sang, performing with his classmates in front of the school body, and then again in front of hundreds of parents. Triumphs of his physical, emotional, and social growth. Moments to celebrate and moments to cherish.
There May Be Bullying. I have learned, from a very disheartening experience, that bullying can happen in kindergarten. Though I was accused of making serious allegations from a person higher up, my husband and I had wisely documented each incident that our son made us aware of, and took photographs when we could. Proof the bullying happened. It was heartbreaking. It was frustrating. It was angering. It was reality. And it was always the same child (who was in SK) that was always injuring our son – physically and emotionally. The ramifications were shocking. Liam’s moods [at home] swung like the pendulum on a clock; he suffered broken sleep; loss of appetite; and he did not want to return to school – all behavioural traits of someone who is being bullied. I immediately recognized this emotional reaction as it was all too eerily familiar. And to further solidify our concerns, I actually had school students in higher grades inform me of what they had witnessed; and I had parents talk to me about what they either saw themselves or their child[ren] had told them. So parents, be forewarned, bullying does happen in kindergarten. If it does happen to your little one (and I hope it does not), document, document, and document some more. Communicate with the teachers and stay on top of the situation, because more often than not the incidents occur out of sight from the teacher and/or out of sight from the supervisor in the room.
There May Be Social Struggles. In a classroom size of 25+ children, with ages ranging from 4yrs to 6 yrs there will inevitably be social struggles. We saw this happen with Liam. He struggled with forging bonds between his classmates and making friends. He was overwhelmed; and his anxiety often interfered with his ability to participate. It took a lot of encouragement and guidance from his teachers to aid him in making connections; and they took time to learn his strengths, supporting him as well as pairing him with like-minded children in playtime activity. Through their willingness to allow Liam to focus on his interests he became more confident and more engaged, and he began to make friends more freely. It took time and patience, but his teachers’ willingness to work through these barriers allowed our son to blossom in his own special way.
There Will Be a Need for Support. The Kindergarten Program offers two teachers in the classroom – the Teacher and the RECE. Lend them your support. They work incredibly hard to engage, nurture, and aid your child’s social, emotional, and mental growth. They have upwards of 25+ children in the classroom and I can tell you, from witnessing this past school year, that they work hard to meet the needs of each child – to encourage them, teach them, guide them, and allow them to explore and discover their own strengths and own interests. I am quite grateful to my son’s teachers for this, because they strove to find successful techniques to alleviate Liam’s anxiety in the early days; and rediscovered how to support him in the latter days. They cared for his needs, and together we all worked out a routine that ensured a healthy transition for Liam. It made the difference. So for every class function, class trip, or class need, I helped as much and as often as I could. I did it not only to support my own son, but also to support his teachers. There may be moments of disagreement, disappointment, or misunderstandings with the teachers, but regardless of these passing moments, demonstrating support to the teachers ultimately supports your own child’s ability to learn and grow. Remember – they are schooling your child for the first time, so support them as best as you can to help them help your child.
There Will Be An Alternate Calendar. My life was always neatly organized in accordance to my hospital appointments, my work schedule, and my husband’s work schedule. The introduction to JK altered that neatly organized way of life. I found I had to readjust to accommodate the school calendar – the PA Days, the holidays, the special events, the festivals, the class trips, the meetings … and the list can go on. This is, in some ways, how I filled my empty days. I assisted with the Home & School website; I assisted with the classroom when required, I attended special events, festivities, and planned out the PA Days. It kept me busy in a way I did not think it could or would. So my calendar is now in-line with the school board calendar; and will be for the duration of Liam’s school career. Summer begins in July; Fall begins in September; Winter begins at Christmas break; Spring begins at March Break … and the adjusting goes on. To make things simple for yourself, go onto the school board website, open the calendar, and mark out the PA Days, holidays, and breaks; and then fill in the remaining as the school year progresses. It will make planning so much easier.
I am not sure if my insight into JK is resourceful or helpful. It is merely what I observed and what I experienced as a parent. My son may have been navigating JK as a student, but I too was navigating JK as a parent. It’s a lot to take in, to process, to accept, and to witness. It’s an overwhelming and emotional year for child and parent, as it marks the beginning of your son’s or daughter’s school career. This is it! And you want the transition to be smooth, nurturing, accommodating, and triumphant. It won’t always be, but being mindful of what to expect can help. There may be moments that you wish did not happen – but so many, many more that you will always cherish. This is a tender time.
JK – A Parent’s Perspective. Published by Crystal Joy Hall