So today was the first day of pre-school for my grandson. A milestone in so many ways – and a reawakening of sorts, for me as his Bubbie.
You see, my early training and work experience BEFORE I had children was teaching and nurturing pre-schoolers. As the Director of a University pre-school, I got to not only welcome children into their first structured learning environment, but also train young teachers at the University level to be that nurturing teacher! I had students at the opposite end of the school spectrum.
Both groups of students had similar excitements and fears! Excitement for learning new things and meeting new friends, even if they didn’t know what that meant. Tears – yes for both the soon-to-be teachers and students, because their heads were simultaneously spinning with excitement and fear, and the physical response was their way of communicating that. It didn’t take long for EITHER group to acclimate as they helped each other navigate this new environment.
Years later as a mom, I realized that I too had conflicting emotions about sending my child off to school. It was a new beginning for all of us. What I learned, however, was the importance of the tone I had to set for my child. It wasn’t always the words I used when I was around him. It was the feeling I had about this when I WASN’T around him that set up the environment about how this change was going to come about in a positive way. Yes, there were days when I felt it would be so nice to just stay home and do some activity together and not be rushed out of the house. But the days I picked him up and he was so excited about the new friend he made or project he completed independently is what made the effort worthwhile.
So some 35 years later, now reliving this experience, observing my young grandson go to school with heightened emotions, even though for months he has been talking about going to school, just proves that the human response is still the same. Together, he, his teachers and parents will navigate the system and get excited about activities. Again it is the environment around him that will make the difference. It is very much like a dance– a few steps forward and a few steps back, but in the end everyone learns to dance– and wants to dance every day!! It certainly reminded me that we all need to create the environment where kids WANT to dance!