I haven’t paused to blog for some time now. With a crazy schedule for myself, kids, and family, there is often little time to stop and reflect. But this major milestone deserves some reflecting. And it deserves some shoutouts to some important people. And it just deserves to be written down for others to reflect on, find comfort in, and maybe offer thoughts as well. This isn’t one of my typical education and technology posts. In fact, it really doesn’t have much technology associated with it at all. At times it may ramble and be long-winded and not the most grammatically correct, but it is a good window into the thoughts that have been running through my mind, heart, and soul. And for those that have experienced this, I hope you can relate to it as well.
This past week my little girl started Kindergarten. If you have an older child, I am sure you remember the day with a lot of emotions. If you have a child that is still not in Kindergarten, I am sure you are awaiting the day with anxious anticipation. I felt the flood of emotions in the weeks leading up to the first day, but as with anything, I rarely show them to the degree in which they were happening. There was pretty much a 24/7 motion picture going on inside my mind, playing back all of my favorite memories with my little girl and wondering where the past five years went. Deep down I knew she would be fine. She is a warrior. A fighter. But as with any change, there is fear, anxiety, sadness, anticipation, and that weird feeling in your heart that often times just cannot be described.
You see, this isn’t my first time going to Kindergarten. Of course, as a child, I went there too, like any of us. My bag (and nametag) as big as my dreams to take on the world…a wide smile behind which lay a fear of this whole new world.
I also taught Kindergarten and think back to my first professional job in Newark, NY as a Kindergarten teacher. A year which I describe as the best year of my professional life not only because it was my first job, but because I fell in love with what I was doing and realized what teaching…the good in teaching…was all about. I still talk to several of the families and staff that I worked with and fondly remember the students. In fact, I remember one of the first parents to come up to me and introduce themselves. As we talked, he hesitatingly gave me a once over and smiled in a way that said I look forward to working with you and also in a way that silently questioned my ability to take care of 25 5 year olds at my age. I remember him saying “You realize I am entrusting you with a piece of my heart” to which I replied, “Seeing you both I don’t think you are being honest. You are trusting me with pretty much your whole heart.” I will never forget that exchange. I don’t know where my wisdom came from back then, but I do remember this father hugging me and not really knowing what that all meant until now…my third go around with Kindergarten.
The days leading up to the big day came with much anticipation and excitement. A letter from her teacher came in the mail which she treated like her most prized possession and showed off to everyone. As a family, we talked about what her days would look like. She practiced counting and writing just to be ready. We used the iPad and Choiceworks app to plan out her schedule (ok, there is some technology interjected here). She went in to bring her supplies and meet her teacher before the first day. And then the first day came. You cannot really plan for how that will go, but my little warrior did just fine. She got on that bus, went to school, and had a great day. She did that again. And again. And again. Emails from her teacher said how well she is doing and adjusting and enjoying herself. She brings her work home and books from the library to share each day. I think I teared up that first day more than she did. In fact, on the way to my job that morning, my little boy in the back seat kept asking if I had “allergies today”. In my head, I answered “Nope, just adjusting to that empty car seat next to you.”
But all of this is why Kindergarten matters. It isn’t so much Common Core, reading, writing, math, and all of that. Of course, that is important and a main focus in school. But in Kindergarten, making that transition and learning how to swim in a big sea is the most important goal. It is about figuring out the world. It is about socializing, making new friends, learning how to be a good friend, learning how to be amazed at the world we live in, how to be inquisitive, how to explore, how to create, how to make a mess, and how to clean it up. It is about singing, playing, smiling, learning, laughing and loving. It is about innocence and seeing the good in the world. There is a lot of good out there if we choose to go and look for it. And if you are the teacher, it is about bringing together a group of children, in essence a group of mom’s and dad’s “hearts”, and making it the best year of their life. It is about making them feel safe and at the same time giving them the courage to swim. It is about helping the children grow just as much as it is helping the parents see what their child is capable of…and how they are capable of allowing them to swim a little bit into the sea of life. I always told my families you aren’t letting them go, you are letting them “grow”. And now it is time to take my own advice.
So thank you to the amazing staff at Charlton Heights Elementary School in the Burnt Hills – Ballston Lake School District in NY for already exceeding my expectations taking care of my little girl. Thank you to the two teachers in her room, her bus driver, her principal, and her after school care givers and all of the staff she has or will come in contact with. You make it easy to see the good in the world and I know that giant piece of my heart also now has a piece of all of your hearts too. And that makes me feel pretty darn good.
As I enter Kindergarten for the third time, I realize again just how important it is and how much I love it and respect those that choose it as their career. Who knows, maybe my professional life will bring me back there someday. But for now, it’s all about seeing my angel take off and do great things. I can already tell she is growing up. The song I sang to her many nights rocking her to sleep, I sang to her again recently to which she said, “Dad…That’s Horrible.” But I’ll leave it for you all here (the non-horrible version) because it is a great song and for many of us it is comforting to know and to tell our children: “Wherever you may go, No matter where you are, I never will be far away.”
Mark Giufre (deTechtive1) 2013