Teacher Turned Parent
All about becoming a school mum.
Kate Friedwald | Oct 2020
For the past 9 years, I have known the world of primary education solely from the teacher side of the fence. At the beginning of Term 3, however, I joined the parent ranks as my oldest started school.
Read on to hear all about my experience so far.
Was I nervous was a common question I received nearing Emily’s school start date. No, not at all. But is that because I am a teacher or just because it’s my nature? Is it because I knew the school and already had a relationship with them? Who knows. I was excited for her next journey and for mine.
How did Covid affect her start? I had already decided to start her at the beginning of Term 3 rather than what would have been Week 8 but then turned into Week 10 of a 12-week Term 2. We are in Auckland so the second shut down of schools came in Week 4-6 for her, which to be honest was actually a nice mid-term break. I think without that, like most 5-year-olds she would have been struggling come the end of term.
Before her visits, I had an extremely informative email from the DP of the junior school including her visit days/times and a link to a website that had been specifically put together for those starting school. This included ALL the info I needed. Stationary and uniform info, lunchbox do’s and don’t, a rundown of the “normal” days timetable and so much more. Basically, I had to think really hard of something to ask as all my questions were answered from before she had even started.
Bring on the first visit. Greeted by the principal, who of course I already knew but it was great to still have that experience along with the other parents and kids starting at the same time. He outlined the schools’ vision and kept it very casual. I can’t remember the exact words but the vibe was “we want your kids to have fun and enjoy being here”. Just what a new parent wants to hear for their child. Wellbeing first, academic learning second. The visit involved joining in with learning through play, a child-focused tour of all the important things like the toilets, playground and the colour of the classroom to make sure they can always find there way back (we are talking a school with an 800+ roll). Emily loved it and couldn’t wait to return as a real schoolgirl.
The way a 5-year-old starts at Emily’s school is, in a nutshell, this: They spend the first 5-10 weeks in the reception room with an extremely amazing and experienced teacher. She has a magic touch and way with these kids that oozes comfort and confidence while still providing the needed structure and boundaries. In this reception room, they learn the ropes, get comfortable in the environment and begin their learning journey off on the right foot. Once the reception room reaches a greater number of minis a second teacher joins the team. This teacher builds rapport with the kids and alongside the reception teacher continues to build on their confidence and comfort.
After about a month and when the room is getting filled up with eager to learn bodies the second teacher takes about 18 of the class off to become their own class for the remainder of the year. It is far from moving to a new class as the kids already have a solid relationship with this teacher and they continue with the routines and learning they have already established. This leaves the reception teacher with a smaller number and the process starts again.
That is the logistics that I know many of you will be interested in as it can be so different at many schools and what works at one may not work at another.
What is more important however is not what they do to settle new families but how they do it. Emily’s reception teacher, her current teacher, the DP and Principal are incredibly approachable and friendly. (I have to say, as I know some will read this, the whole staff are actually top-notch and always make me feel part of the team whenever I am on site but this post is specifically about my journey as a parent). I receive emails at a class and team level along with what is a magic system called SchoolTalk. As a parent, I can access the class timetable, well what the teacher had planned anyway as let’s be honest we all know it can change quickly. I can access Emily’s progress, curriculum learning which includes comments and photos of her learning and I am sure there is probably other stuff I haven’t found yet.
As with many schools, the drop-off and pick-up procedure has morphed since covid and due to the positive impact of reduced anxiety has now been adopted as standard practice. Emily is dropped off on foot to 1 of 3 gates into the school or by car to the drop and go zone. Each gate is manned by a member of the senior leadership team while teachers are in their classes ready to greet students and support them in getting ready for the day. I use the gate that is manned by the principal and even being the principal of such a large school I hear him every day greet students by name, often a high five (covid level dependant) or question about their lives. On numerous occasions, he has needed to unlatch Emily from me and then proceeds to walk hand in hand with her until she is comfortable to continue on her own. I do not doubt that the same care would occur at the other drop off points. Pick-up is the reverse except they even coordinate making sure your child makes it to the gate you wish to pick them up from. For a parent of a young shorty who struggles to see amongst the sea of legs and bodies at 3 pm, it is a comfort to know she is walked all the way to the gate by her teacher who makes sure every student is physically collected by someone. Off course if a parent does need to go onsite for whatever reason that is no problem at all but this way of doing this is really great from a parent perspective so far.
Emily has had the normal teething issues and then re teething after lock-down 2.0. Her teacher keeps checking in with me and has made sure we are both on the same page with focusing on wellbeing first and foremost and letting the learning happen naturally. This is the way I like it and the way it should be!
All in all, I have had a great experience in becoming a school mum this year. I put this down entirely to the bloody brilliant staff and the way they are choosing to do things. Thank you!
To all those teachers that are involved with the beginning school process, you have a hugely important job that will set not only students but their parents also up for what will be either a great or not so great school journey. Take some tips from the above, and beyond everything show that you care for these minis like they were your own.
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