The First Day of Kindergarten – What is the teacher hoping to see?

It’s the first day of Kindergarten. You have been checking off your list of things to do to make a good “first impression”. But what does the teacher really want to see? Here is a look at that first day from a teacher’s perspective.

On the first day of school, I have butterflies, too. It’s hard to see my Kinders lining up in front of the first grade door. “They are going to fall in love with her now. I’m a little jealous, but you never forget your first love, I tell myself.” 

I’m so eager to meet you and see your faces. I know all your names already because I have been getting ready for you; all the myriad of supplies are labeled with your names. I got the list from the school secretary. Did you register this summer? Believe it or not, sometimes we do get walk-ins on the first day! I have even had students start a month late because they didn’t know the age when kindergarten starts. It happens. From the list, I can see how many boys and girls we have, how many “TK” or “transitional Kinders” and how many K. I can see family names that I recognize; I had your older brother or sister in my kindergarten before, and I remember seeing you in your mother’s arms at pickup time. You’re finally here; I’m so excited. I wonder if you’ll be like you brother or sister or completely different. 

I also know what month your birthday is in. I have made the Birthday Chart and your name is on it. Your name is also on your desk nameplate, your cubby, your art wall, some of your books, your daily writing journal, and more. It’s so important that I know how you spell your name and how to pronounce it. I want you to feel right at home when you walk in. DId your mom or dad make a note on the registration forms if you go by a nickname? I hope so. I know your mom has written your name all over your backpack, lunchbag, jacket, pencil case, etc. I hope she understood that some of the supplies will be shared, so those ones don’t need names. Thank you for bringing in the suggested items, and if you didn’t, no worries. I have enough to share. If you can bring in a little at a time, that works too. 

I see you brought your favorite bear (blanket, car, truck, doll, horse, toy). I’m going to send that back with daddy because in this school we don’t bring toys from home. They can get lost on the playground or in the room, so we made that rule so you wouldn’t lose something very precious to you. I do have a sharing day, and you could bring it back then! It will stay in your backpack until sharing, and I’ll ask you to get it out then. 

I’m looking at all these shining faces as they line up in the gym and at the door. It’s clear that moms and dads have spent time making us look our best for a good “first impression.” 

I’m looking my best, too! The whole school is spic-and-span; this is a special day! I’ll be taking photos to go on your cubby wall and to use on art projects, so I’m so glad you feel good in your new first day of school outfit. You’re going to look very different by the end of the year in your kinder graduation robe. We will be doing a lot of growing this year. 

I’m also looking at who remembered to bring a snack and a lunch. What’s in it? What did mommy or daddy pack for you to eat? Is it healthy? I see some notes saying, “I LOVE YOU. HAVE A GREAT DAY!” Some of them were just drawn pictures: an eye, a heart and a U. One mommy put in a photo of the whole family, and I am taping it to your cubby now. Oh, here’s a photo of your dog; he’s so cute! If you forgot your snack or lunch, the school can usually provide one for you or call home. Don’t worry, we’ll always take care of you. 

Now, I’m noticing who can line up nicely, and hang their own backpack on a hook, and who needs help. Is mom or dad giving you a chance to try, or are they doing it for you? There are so many things we are going to need to learn to do now that might have always been done for us, like hanging up our backpacks and coats or putting away our supplies and toys. I’m looking to see who will need extra help to learn how to do these things for the first time. 

It’s time to come into the carpet area and sit. Who knows how to walk in and who runs? I’m looking to see if we already know how to keep our hands to ourselves; that’s really important in kindergarten. At home, there might be brothers and sisters, but here there are many children. We need to learn to control our bodies to stay safe! Don’t worry, I know you want to explore the room, but first I just want to read you a quick story and get your name tags on. 

“Good morning, Room 6!” I listen to see who knows how to respond when someone greets them. “Good morning….Mrs. M” That’s right! My name is on the board and somebody can read it already! This story is called, “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing. I read it every year on the first day of school. Parents can stay at the back of the room while I read to you, and then we wave goodbye to them at the end of the story. They will be back to pick you up soon! You can go get a last hug goodbye! I’m looking to see who is struggling to let go, both children and adults. It’s hard for mommies and daddies to let go on the first day of kindergarten, too. I know that. Parents, if you need a little extra time today, you can stay a bit longer, but we need to start learning how to let go so that we can send a message to our students that they are in a safe place, and they are ready to do this. 

Mom or dad, if you forgot anything, remember to check in at the office before coming into the room. We are really careful about making sure everyone checks in at the office when they come on campus and also that the classrooms don’t have too many interruptions to instruction. I’m looking to see which parents can follow the rules from the beginning and which ones are going to need more reminders and more support. 

Sometimes we have a rough morning at home. It’s normal. This is new and we slept in all summer! If you have to drop your child off and he is crying, I want to reassure you that I will take a photo of your student to message you when he has calmed down. It’s usually right after you walk out the door. Did you give me your cell phone number on the registration packet? Rest assured that I will call you if he doesn’t calm down. I’m not going to let your child cry for long, and I’m really good and getting him busy with all the fun things I have planned for today. It’s you I’m worried about because you didn’t get to see how quickly he recovered from the separation, and I remember that. It’s hard!

I know that lots of mommies and daddies kiss their child goodbye and leave them with these last words, “I love you; be good!” If you are like most kids, “be good” can be synonymous with “be quiet”, but I don’t want you to be so quiet. In fact, it will never be as quiet in this room again as it is in the first 15 minutes of your first day of kindergarten. We are learning here, and that means “sound”!  I want you to be good, but I don’t want you to be quiet. I wish mommies and daddies would say, “Be good and raise your hand a lot!” I can’t get to know you until you talk! And you will see that raising your hand to talk in kindergarten is a really big deal. It’s really important that we learn how to do that. 

Did you go to preschool? Some kids come into kindergarten already knowing how to raise their hands and move about safely in a classroom because they have already been in one. If you haven’t, that’s okay, but we will need to learn that quickly to catch up with our friends. Did you go to preschool with someone else in this class? Do you see a familiar face in here? That’s usually really comforting to find someone you know in the kindergarten room. Mrs.M has a twin sister, so she had a built-in friend when she was a kinder. 

Do you know how to carry a pencil, pointy side down? Scissors, same thing. Do you know that we always walk, never run, unless Mrs. M tells us to at PE or somewhere else? Do you know how to sit on a spot on the carpet “criss-cross-applesauce” or “pretzel legs”? Do you know how to push the button on the water fountain? Do you know how to wash your hands? Do you know how to raise your hand to go to the bathroom? If I don’t see you, you can wave your hand at me or interrupt, that’s okay. Can you get your pants up and down on your own? Did your mom or dad bring in your emergency kit with and extra set of clothes, shoes and socks? I put that in a big storage bin and keep it for you in case you have an accident or get wet in the rain or fall in a puddle. It happens! 

Are you going to after school club today? Do you know? Did mom or dad fill out the form that tells me who can take you home from school besides them? That’s really important. If grandpa shows up, but he is not on the form, I can’t send you home with him, even though I can tell he is really, really nice. Did I tell you Mrs. M is a grandma? I am. 

Did you have a great first day of kindergarten? Of all the things that Mrs. M is hoping to see (backpacks, lunch boxes, supplies, appropriate clothing, cleanliness, immunization records, completed registration packets and forms, beginning behavioral skills, and supportive parents), what I am most hoping to see is your smiling face at the end of the day. Yes, I made it a great first day of kindergarten for you. Now, I’m going to try to make it a great year. I love you already.