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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Back to kindergarten

Kindergarten teachers are by their very nature a nutty bunch. They have to be in order to spend their days with an average of 40 spirited 5-year-olds day in and day out.

They are the people who wear brightly colored outfits that match the seasons and the holidays, sporting jumpers and cardigans with all manner of appliques depicting apples, chalkboards, letters and numbers. And their effervescent personalities can cause cynical parents to mutter, "sheesh" out of the corner of their mouths.

But the reality is that they are a special breed of loving people who hold in their hands your child's educational future. It's not an exaggeration. The experience your child has in kindergarten can set the tone for his or her love of learning for years to come.

I spent this morning in kindergarten with Michael. We walked into Normandy Elementary and were greeted by so many administrators, board members and teachers bending down to welcome my little guy to his first elementary school. I was touched by their presence because not only was this experience new for Michael, but for me as well.

Mrs. Eaton greeted us as we walked in the door with her vivacious smile and exuberant personality. "You must be Michael Hoke," she said. She taught with my sister-in-law, Mary Beth, for a number of years so she knew our name. "Michael, would you like to shake hands or hug," she asked. Michael stuck out his hand. Once we put all his supplies away in his cubby, we toured the classroom in all its primary-color, hyper-stimulating glory.

Mrs. Eaton is now in her 36th year of teaching kindergarten and she has as much enthusiasm and energy as a first-year teacher. She talked to parents about summer workshops she attended and her teaching philosophy. And I'm convinced that she's just the kind of first teacher Michael needs.

I'm not sure what he'll learn this year, but I do know that he'll grow to love learning. What better foundation can a parent ask for?

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