Monday was the first day of school, and for some Boulder City students it truly was the first time they stepped foot into a classroom.
Their first day in kindergarten at Mitchell Elementary School was just as it should be. Everything was shiny and new from the shoes on their little feet to the bright backpacks (with matching lunch boxes inside) hanging on the backs of their chairs to the crayons in the bins on their desks.
If there were any fears about spending so much time by themselves away from home, it wasn’t evident by the time I arrived in Carrie Herring’s classroom about an hour after school started. All 20 of the first-time students were smiling, happy and busy working on their first assignment: coloring a picture of a teddy bear.
Though it seemed like a such a simple task, for the kindergartners the assignment was a chance for Mrs. Herring to assess her students’ abilities. Could they color between the lines, write their names in pencil on the proper line, or use appropriate colors for the features on the picture?
As expected, it was a day of many firsts for the youngsters, and there was lots to learn, including classroom and school rules.
For starters, when the teacher says “Class, class,” the students are supposed to immediately stop what they are doing, focus their eyes on their teacher and respond “Yes, yes.” It didn’t take too many times practicing for the majority of the class to get the hang of this.
They learned to line up and where they need to be to head in and out of the classroom. Even recess was a lesson. They were given expected playground behavior, told where to run and where to walk, and the proper protocol for sliding down the slide.
The kindergarteners also were taught how to use the drinking fountain. No lips on the spout and count to three while drinking and then you’re done.
Once they became acquainted with their classroom, it was time to tour the school, meet staff members such as the librarian and nurse, and visit the lunchroom.
That’s one place that was much more organized than what I remember from when I attended elementary school. There were assigned places for each class to sit and lunchroom attendants to help the kids open any packages and make sure they ate enough before heading out to the playground.
And there were lessons to learn there, too. They were told the proper procedures for getting a hot meal, how to open a milk carton and where to put their trash.
Naturally, there was bound to be one student in the class who would have a little trouble paying attention and following the rules. And as an experienced parent and classroom visitor it didn’t take me long to spot him. Every time Mrs. Herring offered a new lesson or rule, I watched as this little boy did everything but what was asked — kinda like my own rebellious teenagers.
If the students were told to keep their hands to themselves as they walked through the halls, he reached out to touch the posters. If told to sit on the orange carpet square, he sat on the red one. If asked to leave backpacks and lunch boxes in the class for the school tour, he grabbed his. It made me smile.
By lunchtime, half of the first day was gone and there were no problems. Principal Ben Day said he was impressed with how the kindergarteners were adapting to their new surroundings, especially in light of the length and number of their first-day lessons. The switch from half-day to full-day kindergarten was going well. He didn’t see any separation anxiety on the playground as they headed to their respective classes for the first time — except maybe from a few parents.
The kids’ enthusiasm for school was a far cry from what I see on a regular basis from my high schoolers, who keep asking for an extra five minutes of sleep before getting up and rushing out of the house.
This year there was no time — or desire — for first-day-of-school festivities such as a picture, fashion show, hair and makeup check or good luck wish. It was just a “I’m going to school” that trailed off as they headed out the door.
Ah, those first day of school memories.
Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.