The much anticipated first day of kindergarten

15th March, 2024

Written by Christine Burkholder

ECE Environments Author and Mentor
It was the much anticipated first day of kindergarten. I was wearing my starched new red dress, and those fancy socks with lace on the top that I only wore for special occasions and of course my special shiny black patent leather buckle shoes. I also had my perfect attendance ribbon from Sunday School pinned to my dress as this was my most prized achievement so far in my first five years ( I wore it all the time). I had waited for this special day, the rite of passage, the day I would go to school for what seemed like my whole life. I could not wait to join the prestigious club of Kindergarten.
I thought that my Mom must have been excited because she was dressed up too, she was wearing a skirt and suit coat, and nylon stockings with high heels. Both our hair had been curled and we even had hair spray on. I remember thinking that this was” the best day ever.” The school was close enough to walk to but because this was the first day and we were all dressed up we drove to the school.

When we arrived, I remember standing in the doorway thinking this place was really big, and I wasn't sure about the smell. The school had its own special smell that I can only describe as stale glue, cleaning product and peanut butter. It wasn't a particularly bad smell, just different.

When we got to the kindergarten room the teacher was there waiting for us, but there were no kids. I am not sure what I expected, but this most definitely was not it. I at least thought there would be crayons, maybe some paper to cut ( I was very interested in cutting paper with real scissors and since this was a new skill, I would have loved to show everyone how it was done.) But there were no scissors, no paper, no crayons.

I was asked to sit down in an adult sized chair while my mom and the teacher talked. The teacher sat behind a big desk, while we sat across from her in large, hard plastic chairs. My feet did not touch the floor, and when I sat back, my legs were sticking straight out. We sat like this for what seemed like hours from a five year olds perspective. The grownups talked and I just sat in the big chair. I sat in the chair made for a giant and I remember being confused.

  • Was this really kindergarten?
  • Where were the other kids?
  • Why couldn't I play?
  • Why was the chair so big?

I made up my mind that I would not be going back. This was NOT the best day ever, this is not my school, my Kindergarten, and to this day, I still hate the smell of hair spray.

This was 58 years ago. I remember this day in complete detail.
I remember the smell, the big chair, the feeling of not belonging.
When I look back at this , I can tell it must have been “meet the teacher day,” not the first day of kindergarten. There must have been very important things to talk about, but not to me. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, I would talk to the teacher about creating a feeling of belonging. I would whisper to this teacher to remember who is most important in her classroom, I would tell her to be sure and talk to the child.

I would ask her to think from the child's perspective, I would tell her to make a connection with the child , maybe ask the child if she would like to color or cut with scissors. I would suggest that she make sure there were chairs that were just the perfect size where a five year old could sit and let her special black patent leather shoes touch the ground.

How will you connect with that new child on her first day of preschool?

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