Registration day for preschool is a complicated day for everyone involved. The purpose of the day is to get the necessary registration paperwork filled out by parents to enroll their child in all the systems of school. Health screenings are also done so the health and social services part of our contract can be fulfilled with fidelity. The fact that kids come to this day with an entirely different agenda means there’s another layer of interaction that is fun but challenging for teachers and parents.
Parents are focused on reading and writing. Kids are in a brand new place with toys. The fact that other adults are there trying to take data is just plain inconvenient but we all do our best to make it a positive experience.
J.M. enters the classroom. I, his new teacher, greet his mom and dad and him. Dad tells him to say hi to me. J. turns his head away – not in a mad way but just not ready to engage. I invite him to look around at the toys and name things I see in an effort to catch his interest. He spies a toy snake, makes a beeline for it and one of my colleagues is ready on the floor to play while I explain paperwork to his parents and get them started at a table.
Then it is a dance to give enough time to J.M. to play as well as get his height, weight, vision and hearing screens done – some of which involve leaving the classroom with yet another stranger. Luckily I knew that tellling J.M. he could take the snake with him was a ticket to getting those things to happen.
An hour later the papers have beein filed, health screens noted and J.M. is parking that snake into a box and waving good bye to new friends.
A teeny young mom and two girls enter the classroom. Right away the 4 year old girl and her 2 year old sister are on the floor playing and exploring everything around them. Their mom is much more reserved and watchful than her daughters. She chooses a quiet spot to fill out papers and pummels through them with her head down.
Separating the 4 year old from the floor to get her vision and hearing checked is more difficult. Unlike J.M. a transition toy is not the ticket, she doesn’t like the idea of missing a minute of play time. But she does it and comes running in saying “I’m back” as though she is reassuring us of her presence instead of the other way around.
Ending this hour is more challenging. Her mom is holding her coat and folder and younger sister in hand and this 4 year old does not want to budge. One teacher is on the floor helping her clean up and coaching her by reminding her she’ll be coming back to school and able to stay longer. I see that this little girl is starting to get wound up towards a melt down.
What to do! I join my colleague on the floor and start to whisper to this little girl face to face. I tell her she’s going to have to go home but I want her to come look at my desk calendar and count the days until she’s going to be back. I ask her to draw a happy face on that day. Then I take my permanent marker and make a “10” on the back of her hand to remind her of the date and then holding her hand I walk with her and her mom all the way to the outside door.
On the way she tells me she’s worried the “10” will wash off and I say it will take a few bath times before that happens and if it does I will write it again. I tell her I often make little stars on children’s hands and it is my way of writing secret messages just for them.
She’s not completely at ease leaving school but she isn’t crying and her mom is back in full control.