My daughter started Kindergarten last week. This was a huge milestone for both of us, but we thought we were ready. We had the ‘flippy’ backpack, a fancy new lunch box and an even fancier new outfit. On the first day, we set out for school, new backpack and lunch box in hand. (She left the new outfit at home deciding it wasn’t tailored enough–I’m not kidding.) When she came home, she was all smiles, but I was not buying it. Her smiles seemed too forced, her answers too pat. My friend reflected aloud in front of her about how starting a new school year can be an adjustment. Ariana didn’t take the bait. “Not for me,” she said as she cartwheeled away, “I’m already adjusted.”
But by 6:30 that night she couldn’t hold it in any longer. Her smiles turned to tears and her words broke my heart. “I’m not good at anything! There is nothing I know how to do in Kindergarten.” I stayed calm on the outside and tried to tell her a story about something that was hard for me when I was a kid and then got easier. She shook her head and stopped me, “No, mom! It’s not like that at all. It is just too many things. It’s too many things to think about!”
We had lots of talks that weekend and I shared my experiences with overwhelming starts. I also reflected upon about what I actually do when I’m overwhelmed, which is to pare down a situation to its most essential elements. On Sunday night, I shared these reflections with her. I told her that I hoped she found Kindergarten fun, that she learned something new each day and that she continued being curious about the world. She didn’t have much of a response, but on Monday morning she seemed lighter and more ready to tackle going to a ‘big girl school’.
Was it coincidental? Maybe but I hoped my advice helped.
The next day, I was working with teachers helping them to launch their Writer’s Workshop. As I looked at these teachers’ tired faces, it hit me that they too were overwhelmed and the words that my daughter said earlier that week echoed in my brain.
It really is too many things to think about at the start of a new school year.
What did I say to these teachers? I gave them the same advice I gave Ariana: Have fun, teach/learn something new each day and continue to be curious about learning and your kids. Then, I modeled a lesson that incorporated those three big ideas.
At the end of my session, the teachers seemed lighter and more ready to tackle the exciting but challenging endeavor of reaching all writers.
Coincidental? I hope not.
Happy New Year! May it be a year of great fun, lots of learning and teaching and loads of time to be curious about your kids and curriculum.