Do you remember your first day of kindergarten as a child? Have you taken the first steps in this journey with your own child? It’s a big milestone in our culture. Those families who have grown children are even posting old first-day photos on Facebook. The first day of school makes headlines and includes photos in the news and on social media. There are images of families saying good-bye, holding hands, hugging, children greeting friends, playing together outside, and carrying very large backpacks! One beautiful image in the Casper Star Tribune, touched my heart as I vicariously experienced the opening of school in my community through images and stories online. The photo is of a mother kneeling down to gently kiss her kindergartener goodbye. This image depicted the rituals and the emotions we are familiar with in our culture as students begin their learning journey. The difference between this photo and similar ones from past years was that both mother and child were wearing colorful masks.
The article went on to say that the teacher gave heart stickers to children and family members. Throughout the day they could think of each other when they looked at their stickers. This teacher was making an intentional effort to support the social and emotional needs of children and families on that first day of school. The transition to a new setting can trigger a range of feelings for both children and parents. Being intentional about supporting the social and emotional needs of children and parents is an important first step in developing strong family partnerships. Covid-19 certainly added an extra layer of concern for many families and some chose to begin school differently this year. Though not featured in the article, many families celebrated this milestone at home through virtual learning with their own children. Families choosing a virtual or home schooling option also need connections with educators and other parents as they navigate this learning journey at home.
Early childhood educators have always played an important role in easing the home to school transition in their early learning programs. As important as that very first day is, the first weeks and months provide the opportunity for building the relationships that connect families and schools. Whether at home or in a brick and mortar building, intentionally creating opportunities for family engagement is an important step in the learning journey.
For both educators and families, The National Association for the Education of Young Children has resources available.
Check out this blog full of helpful ideas for supporting families: