LAKEWOOD — After the school district’s breakfast and benefits fair Aug. 31, Lakewood’s grade school teachers all converged on Cougar Creek Elementary that afternoon for workshops and other collaborative exercises, as they geared up for the first day of school Sept. 7.
Ricci Winchell has taught kindergarten for three years, all in Lakewood, and she conceded it’s not just her students who are adjusting to attending school, sincefor many of their parents, it’s their first time sending their children off to class.
However, she touted events ranging from the open house to new student orientations as ways to facilitate that adjustment, so that kids and their families feelconfident that they’ll be in a safe space.
“We ask our parents to drop the students off at the doors of the classrooms, so the students can develop their own routines, independently of their parents,”Winchell said. “We want the students to build connections with each other. This is when we’re setting the foundations of their expectations of what schoolshould sound like and feel like.”
To ensure the students feel capable on their own, Winchell encouraged parents to dress them in clothes that the children can put on or take off, as needed,throughout the day.
“Whether it’s buttons or belts, make sure they know how to operate their own clothes,” Winchell said. “And be sure to pack an extra set of clothing in theirbackpacks. We actually put that on our supply lists.”
Beyond that, Winchell noted that kindergarten has shifted more toward social and emotional development than hard-and-fast academic lessons.
“It’s okay to let them play, especially during those first few weeks,” Winchell said. “They can interact and get to know each other, and we will make sure to getto know each student. I feel that’s especially important, so I’ll ask each one what their favorite colors or animals are, so that I have a connection already madethem them, to draw upon at a moment’s notice.”
Third-grade teachers Kristal Sherrid and Ashley Bailey know that their students’ parents are more experienced at getting back into the swing of the schoolyear, but they nonetheless advised parents to take the time to establish lines of communication with their teachers.
“You should know exactly what the standards of learning are,” said Sherrid, who keeps in touch with families through newsletters, emails and phone calls,depending on which is most convenient for the parent. “Whatever works to keep parents informed is what I go with.”
Bailey agreed that parents should “be aware of the Common Core standards,” but acknowledged that the language of Common Core can be challenging fornon-educators to decipher, which is why both she and Sherrid recommended utilizing their kids’ teachers as a resource.
“Ask to talk to your teachers regardless, so that you know what’s expected,” Bailey said.