Our school had it’s Welcome to Kindergarten afternoon today. I love it when new parents and students arrive through our doors at any time of the year, but the feeling I get from over 30 parents and their children arriving at school at once is even more exhilarating!
I have taught Kindergarten at many schools and the orientation format changes from school to school. Some schools have guests move through stations while they learn about important characteristics of the school and Kindergarten program. Some schools provide children a chance to spend time with the Kindergarten teachers while parents are given an overview of the school and the Kindergarten program lecture style. Some schools only invite parents.
Whatever format your school chooses to do, there are some important things that schools need to remember about this annual event. I get it, it’s a really busy time of year and things are crazy, but we can not risk treating this event as yet another obligation at this time of year to get through. I’d say it’s one of the most important events of the school year.
1) This is your chance to shine, to celebrate why your school is so great! With that you need to put your best foot forward. These parents are entrusting their most valuable possession to you. If you are having a bad day (who hasn’t had a bad day?!), put whatever is bothering you aside for a few hours.
2) Your role is to be welcoming. Be open to answering questions, and be patient with new parents who, most of the time, only have their own schooling experience to reference. Some parents and children may be overwhelmed with this new experience.
3) Use this opportunity to get to know kids and their parents. Covertly make note of “issues” children are displaying; however choose another, more private time to ask parents for more details.
4) Keep the teacher talk to a minimum. Share stories of your own kids and/or students. The best response I have received is sharing that I taught Kindergarten for over 10 years and when my own son entered Kindergarten I was a wreck! I needed to know every detail. If I didn’t have to be at work, I would be one of those moms hovering and peeking through the windows.
5) Don’t let them leave empty handed. Give them things to work on over the summer like a pair of scissors, play dough, a list of math and literacy games, etc.. Oh and, of course, you have to give them a tasty snack (healthy choices optional!)!
Kindergarten orientation is such an important event on so many levels, don’t let it go by without some thoughtful planning and discussion.
Great post! I think it is such an important event, you are so right! So often, in our busy days and schedules, events like this tend to take the back-burner. But, as you mentioned, this is a first for many of our families. Even if it isn’t a first (if they have other children in school already), they are trusting us with their upcoming kindergarten child. And, as we know, each child is different and brings their own strengths and concerns to the kindergarten table.
I think one of the most powerful things to provide our new parents to kindergarten is our stories of our own children. It makes school “real” and makes it all a little less scary when they hear that we all, even administrators at the school, feel similarly. I talked about my kids crying, my middle child’s speech issues, about how different my kids are at school than at home (they will clean up at school, for instance – not so much at home). Those stories are powerful and so helpful to calm the fears of our parents.
I’m sure your Welcome to Kindergarten event was a huge success!