I remember the first day of school. I wasn't particularly nervous, but I was unsure of what to expect. The one thing I feared the most would be my tourette's acting up and parents noticing and questioning my tics. I took my principals advice and did not bring it up. I went through orientation with my paraprofessional, Helen, and the first day was quick and simple. There wasn't any criers because they were with their parents.
My paraprofessional, Helen Chin, has worked with TALES since it opened in 2008. She had many years of experience at other schools. The only time I've worked with her was the brief time I subbed for pre-k teachers in the past. I had always been nervous subbing for pre-k since they were so small and everything in the room was so close together and fragile. Helen and I worked very well together during my first year and she made my first year adjustments and transitions so much easier. She would be the one who reminded me to fill out attendance when I forget. She was the one who would take out the fire drill folder when I would forget about it during a drill. Her daily photos and comments of what the kids did that day were always a main attraction for parents waiting for the day to start or during dismissal. I am very grateful to work with Helen my first year as well as my second year.
The second day of school was a half day. There were many criers but things settled down when we brought the kids outside, exposed them to the cool stuff they would be playing with, and showed them we weren't the enemy. The year progressed smoothly. Students who were initially a pain became ones we grew to love. The students we loved from the start stayed in our hearts after they left for kindergarten.
The first year of teaching pre-k was an experimental year. My philosophy was constantly changing. I went from an academic/teacher-directed approach to a more child centered play approach. The great thing about pre-k is the room for creativity and freedom. There were specific DOE related tasks we had to get through, but afterwards, many things we did were for our students' interests (as well as mine). We were really big on monsters, robots, princesses, and many other fantastical and imaginary things.
One thing I did not like were the bus trips. Walking trips were fine. There's something about the smell of school buses and being in one while in motion made me sick quite easily. I always felt nauseous during and after a bus trip. Although some trips were awesome, some were not worth the sick feeling that came along with it.
One resource that I utilized much during my first year was donorschoose.org. There are some things that the DOE just won't supply or can't supply in a timely fashion. When that's the case, there's always donorschoose. Writing has always been something I loved to do. Writing projects for my classroom was fun. Watching them get funded was exciting. Receiving the materials and seeing my students use them is absolutely priceless. Donorschoose is a great organization and the cause is even greater.
Bulletin boards for pre-k is also fun. Again, the creative freedom that comes along with teaching pre-k is something I think every teacher desires. My first bulletin board was a giant family tree. Our students brought in pictures of their family, talked about them, and we added them to branches of the tree, creating a class family tree.
Ms. Chin can often tell early in the school year if it's going to go by quick or drag on slowly. My first year zoomed by so quickly. We both dreaded the coming of June where we would have to bid farewell. Watching how much our students grew since the beginning was an amazing experience. Graduation was so bittersweet. I remember the last day very well. I had a game plan to go in and not get emotional over the saying of goodbyes. The kids came in and Ms. Chin and I received gifts and thank you cards. I set them down on the table and continued with the day as normal. It wasn't until Lillian, the after school teacher and friend asked if she could look at the cards. She read one in particular and told me that I had to read it. It was from Rishi's family. It was such a beautiful heartwarming card that brings tears to my eyes when I think about it (even now). The game plan I had went out the window when I read the card. Tears flowed immensely down my face. It was the exact opposite of the first day of school. Throughout the day, when I saw Rishi or thought of the card, I began to tear up. Kids would ask what was wrong and why I was crying, but it was something that was hard to explain to a child. I simply told them that I would miss them very much. It was the simple truth and they understood. It was a great year. All great things have to come to an end. When the door opened for dismissal, it was the moment after the play where the actors and actresses came out and took their final bows and kissed the audience goodbye. It made you appreciate their work but there's a sad feeling that it was over. I don't think a script could have been written better for a more perfect first year. I'm grateful for having a wonderful first year and hope the experiences repeat itself year after year.