The first day of kindergarten leads to lots of questions for students and parents. What school will your child attend? What teacher will your child have? When will I see my mom again?
Teachers in Catawba County shared advice to put parents at ease. Here are some things you need to know before your child’s first day of school.
How do I register my child for kindergarten?
Visit your child’s school during open hours and fill out the paperwork.
Erin Sigmon, principal of Southwest Primary School, said students should be registered for kindergarten as soon as possible so that parents can get to know their child’s school and opportunities available at the school.
Medical forms, emergency contacts and a list of people allowed to pick up a child from school are among the paperwork items that must be completed before the child is enrolled.
David Brittain will be sending his oldest child Lucas to kindergarten this month. He said there was a lot of paperwork but it was simple and easy.
Schools do allow students to be registered on the first day but it is not recommended. That's because children must wait in the office until the paperwork is completed, adding stress for a child on what may already be a stressful first day of school, Erin Sigmon said.
How is my student placed in a classroom?
Christian Sigmon will be sending her daughter to school for the first time this month. She said one of her concerns as a parent is the school meeting the needs of her child and making sure her child is placed in the right classroom.
Different schools have different methods of placing students in certain classrooms.
Lyle Creek Elementary doesn’t place students with a teacher for the first few days of school so they can assess the student’s behavior and learning abilities, according to Principal Jessica Mays.
Mays said teachers have different styles of teaching. Some teachers are authoritative. Others are nurturing. And some are simply more laid back than their counterparts. Mays said the delay is intentional so that each student can be placed where teachers believe they will thrive.
At Southwest Primary, students and parents participate in a social and emotional screening before school begins, according to Sigmon. Those who attended pre-school and those who didn’t are divided up in different classes so every class has a blend of both. “We also look at different needs of students as we place them,” Erin Sigmon said.
What should students bring with them on their first day?
Each school has a different list of school supplies. Some of the most common items are folders, headphones for using school computers and iPads, a pack of lined paper, crayons and tennis shoes for gym.
Erin Sigmon said parents should pack an extra change of clothes for their child to keep at school.
How do I prepare my child for their first day?
Jennifer Yang, kindergarten teacher at Southwest Primary, said students should be able to recognize their name and at least spell their first name before attending school because teachers will only know the students by that first name and won’t know if they go by any other. It will help eliminate confusion.
Mays said she recommends talking with a child about what school will be like and what to expect before the first day and to start a bedtime routine weeks before school starts so they are already adjusted to waking up early.
Christian Sigmon said she has already started having her daughter work on pre-school worksheets she found online to help her prepare.
Kendra Williams, kindergarten teacher at Lyle Creek Elementary, said parents don’t need to worry about teaching a child letters and numbers before school. “Relax. Let them be a kid for the rest of the summer. When they come here, we will meet them where they are.”
“Work with [your child] and do things with them at home,” Williams said. “That develops your relationship between you and them. So I’m not discouraging that but as a parent, don’t worry about that. I did. Looking back, I wish that I hadn’t so much.”
Erin Sigmon said teaching a child letters and numbers before kindergarten is helpful but it is not something they are required to know. “Part of our goal is to teach them their letters and numbers, but anytime you can give them a leg up I do believe it helps with the comfort level of the child as they continue their learning process."
Should students attend pre-school before kindergarten?
It is not required in the state of North Carolina for students to attend pre-school but there are many options for pre-school in Catawba County.
Erin Sigmon said if pre-school is available, parents should consider sending their kids to pre-school to help get a head start and give kids a smoother transition into kindergarten. “It helps put your child a little ahead of the game with social skills and with some of the basic academic skills,” she said.
How will teachers help my child who may be emotional about school?
Erin Sigmon said she has seen new students react to their first day in many ways. Some adjust well and social skills come naturally to them. Some are shy and afraid of the new environment.
According to Erin Sigmon, teachers do want to teach their students independence. Some schools have a policy in place where parents are not permitted to take their child to class after a certain amount of the school year has passed.
“Don’t plan on hanging around,” Erin Sigmon said. “The longer you hang around, the harder it is for them to leave. As hard as it is to leave a crying baby, it’s OK. We will take care and console them.”
Since every child is different, this rule can be bent if there are special circumstances.
Erin Sigmon has two kids and said one was every excited for school while the other was very timid.
“Don’t assume that this child is going to act like one of your previous children," she said. "Make it a special event for each one of them.”
My child is in a classroom. Now what?
Yang said she prepares goodie bags for parents that include tissues, a tea bag and a comforting letter to help parents feel encouraged that their child will be taken care of and they can relax.
Erin Sigmon said parents should be involved with their child’s education and in the school community. “That goes a long way with helping secure success for your child.”
“Be patient as we learn your student and how to help make them successful,” she said. “Be willing to help us when needed. Just know we may be calling on you for help and support.”