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Guest Post: First Day Jitters

Today we have the first in our Back To School series of guest posts!  You may remember Monica from her guest interview on the podcast episode, “Moms @ Work (Part 2) – #12.” Enjoy!

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

“Time to get up, honey.”

I grumble as I stumble to the bathroom and start the morning routines.

I’m handed a cup of strawberry milk, complete with my favorite straw, of course. I get a warm apple toaster strudel and just a few minutes later, I’m rushed out the door. “Have a great first day!”

I get in the car and have a mental supply check: Book Bag? Check. Lunch? Check. New, awesome clothes? Check. New shoes? Check. Hair out of my face? Check.

Is it August already? Am I really up this early? Yuck. How in the WORLD am I supposed to do this today? I’m not ready for this! There are SO many kids. There are SO many strangers. I don’t think I’m even old enough. Aw, man.

I’m here. Wow, that sure was a short trip.

I arrive in the parking lot and walk to the door. The Big. Blue. Door.

I remember all of this, it’s familiar, but yuck. Here it is. And I have to walk through it. Deep breath. You can do this.

I walk in. There’s this place where my stuff goes… I put it away and go to my classroom. Wow. Look at all the people. Why is that kid crying on his mom’s shoulder? Why is that mom crying? It smells like glue in here. Glue and markers. Glue and markers and Clorox.

A grown-up calls my name from across the room, “Ms. Monica, you’re here!”

Here I am. I’m walking into my eighth year of teaching preschool. Is it any less scary than the first time I took this same walk? Not really. New faces, new names to learn, new materials to put away… it’s an oxymoron of emotions: wildly calming? Familiarly different? Veteran freshness?

Whatever you call it, if you’re a teacher coming into a classroom full of new kids and new families, you’re bound to feel a wide range of feelings.

The funny part about teaching preschool and being nervous is that the kids aren’t usually the scary part – it’s the new parents. There parents who are sending their first babies out into the ‘real world’ for the first time. There is one parent who is sending her third daughter to my class. The other two have come and now gone onto third grade and kindergarten this morning, but here she is with the last little duckling… I think she has tears in her eyes.

Whatever the type of parent, the uncertainties are the same: did I tell her to take him to the bathroom? Did I tell her where his crayons were? Did I leave her an extra set of clothes just in case? Does she have all of my emergency contact numbers? Will she keep up with him on the playground???

I can’t imagine the fears that come with leaving your baby behind in this loud, chaotic preschool world – but I can assure you that my job is to make sure he leaves here with a great foundation in education. Maybe he won’t leave preschool knowing how to read a spy novel and being able to count to a million, but he WILL leave preschool with some important skills to get him through the next several years of his school-life.Did he cry the first day but go back with smiles the next?

Did he cry the whole morning he was at school but come home talking about what a fun time he had? Did he come home with stories to tell? Did he draw something for your refrigerator?

Whether the preschool experiences starts with a child who runs right in or a child who has to be pried away from his momma’s leg, the confidence your child gains from this experience will last him a lifetime. You left, he cried, and you came back just like you said; he learns to trust your word. He missed you, clung to your picture, but made it through the day; he’s developing self-confidence that he’s capable of being, doing, and living away from mom. He sat during circle time and played on the playground; he’s learning to follow rules and routines put into place by someone other than his parents. He used the bathroom and remembered to wash his hands; he’s learning to take care of his own needs.

Is it a little sad that he doesn’t need you like he used to? Sure. But, what an awesome accomplishment for YOU as a parent!

You’ve created this little baby who needed you for everything. You’ve watched him grow and learn (and maybe get into trouble once or twice). You’ve set boundaries and he’s learned to respect them. You’ve given directions and he’s learning to follow them. You’ve instilled in him a love and a confidence that allows him to face this big-bad-world of preschool and not only conquer it, but thrive in it.

Preschool is more than a bunch of loud, rambunctious kids playing with some stuff in a room. It’s the beginning of relationships. It’s the beginning of functioning effectively as part of a community. It’s learning to be a part of a team – and we all know that a team works better when all its members are active and doing their best!

As a teacher, I welcome each new group of kids with the mentality of, “How is God going to allow me to work in the lives of this group of children, on this day, for this time that I’m with them? How can I encourage them to be the best THEM they can be?”

Remember those uneasy moments of sadness as your child stands and waves with tears streaming down his face. In a few days, when he gets into his new groove, you’ll look back and know that you’ve reached yet another checkpoint in your parenting marathon.

Way to go, mom…. Way to go!

Monica graduated from East Tennessee State University in 2004 with a degree in Early Childhood Development. She is employed at King’s Christian Academy in Big Stone Gap, VA. She is in her eighth year as preschool director at KCA and is currently teaching 4 and 5 year-old Kindergarten. Monica and her husband Shawn are expecting their first child in December. She writes at her brand new blog, Preschool Playbook.

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