I was a Primary 1 teacher for a long time. I loved every second of the highly organised chaos but I’m certainly seeing it very differently now that I’m a parent handing over my own. The emotional side of it is enormous and the worry...oh god the worry!
At the end of the day you just want a teacher to get your kid, am I right? To understand who they are and what they’re about and to care about them. You want them to do well academically but I think it’s probably fair to suggest that most parents really just want them to be happy in school.
As a teacher I can think of a whole list of things that you hope your new class will be able to do/have/know before coming in and I thought it might be helpful to set up a wee checklist for you to have a read through. My own little boy does not in any way hit everything on this list, and it is probably unlikely that your little person will either but they’ll definitely meet some of it and the rest they’ll learn along the way…because that’s kind of what we do!
Let’s get the expensive bit out of the way first. Everything they need and a few they don’t.
- Uniform – a good tip on the uniform front is to buy things they can get on and off themselves. Especially for gym days. I’m sure getting one tie on in the morning causes you grief…now multiply it by 25!
- Gym kit and gym bag – no fancy stuff required. Plain stuff and good old fashioned gym shoes.
- Good sized school bag – we often give out A4 sized stuff in poly wallets. It helps when it can fit inside their bag on a wet day.
- Packed lunch box (if your little will be having a packed lunch). Mine will…he’s fussy. Ugh!
- Water bottle – total must. Classrooms are hot. Smelly too on occasion but let’s not go there.
- Painting shirt – one of your other half’s old shirts are great. They cover a whole lot more than the bought ones and the kids can get them on without getting their hair caught in the Velcro.
- LABELS – yes it’s in capitals. Everything, label everything! Water bottles, painting shirts, the bag for the gym kit – I mean everything. You would honestly not believe the amount of stuff in a school's lost and found room – yes whole roomfuls of the stuff that don’t have names. In the words of Beyonce (kind of) if you like it then you shoulda put a name on it.
Stuff you don’t really need.
- Fancy pens/pencils/pencil cases – we provide what they need. (Unless your school has stated otherwise.) Fancy pencils tend not to sharpen great, style over substance!
- Fancy rubbers – they make a mess. Rubbers are great, buy a stash but if they are pink and smell nice they’ll probably make a mess of a jotter.
- Fancy plastic sharpeners - you want a sharpener that goes the distance, buy a metal one. And if you really want the teacher to love you come Christmas, buy her (or him) an electric, heavy duty beast. You will be forever legendary in the staff room, I guarantee it!
SKILLS THAT ARE GREAT IF THEY HAVE THEM (and don't worry if they don't...yet!)
- Dress themselves – My own will struggle with this one despite many many hours of working on it. If they can get changed into gym kit and back into school uniform relatively independently then that is a huge bonus. If not your teacher will help without any drama but it’s definitely something to have a wee go at over the summer holidays.
- Use scissors – again something we will teach but if they can do this then brilliant!
- Brush their teeth with a bog standard toothbrush– sounds strange right but they brush their teeth every day in P1 after lunchtime. They all have their own wee toothbrushes. It’s really pretty cute but a load of kids use electric toothbrushes these days so it helps if they know how to handle an original model.
- Share – this one is a seriously big ask. They are still really little and these are skills that develop over time so if your little bundle hasn’t quite grasped the concept yet that’s ok. We can show them how to navigate sharing within the classroom setting. Whether or not they will bring that skill home is anyone’s guess!
- Take turns – there is a lot of game playing in P1 and beyond. Being able to take turns is tricky for little people who are eager and excited. Try playing a simple board game once or twice a week so they get used to the idea.
- How to lose – this is obviously linked to the one above. When we play games it is great if children can lose without it being the end of the world. Little people have big emotions and it’s sometimes really tricky keeping them from bursting out. Losing tends to be a trigger point. The same thing applies. Play games and beat them! Will they be upset, possibly/probably! Will they learn how to accept that they don’t always win and that’s ok, yup! Course they will!
EARLY READING/WRITING/NUMBER SKILLS
Early literacy and numeracy skills are a great thing for your child to have when they come into P1. They will have done an absolute heap of things in nursery/playgroup to encourage these early skills – all of which will have been done through play because that’s how kids learn best!
The thing teachers get asked the most is how they can bring their kids on. And to be honest, it’s really simple.
Read to them.
Yes that’s it.
Read to them.
You don’t have to do it all day long but set aside time every day to read to your child and watch them soak it all in. You don’t have to teach them sounds – we’ll do that. Just read, let them look at the pictures, chat about the story and enjoy them together. Read counting stories and you'll be helping them gain early number skills too! (Two birds for multi-tasking mums!) Give them a love of books and stories and words and without a doubt it will be one of the greatest things you do for your kids.
Early writing skills can be great fun to do with your child. Drawing, colouring in, painting...anything that gets them holding a pen or pencil. Write in sand, or shaving foam if you're game! Show them how to write their name. (A teacher will love you if they can!)
My friend and I took our kids to a Little Scribblers class which was run by Occupational Therapy. It was a nice wee afternoon with loads of ideas on how to ready them for writing by introducing them to early mark making skills. I'll pop a link to their Facebook page in the Facebook comments.
You’ve got a couple right??
Maybe a few more than a couple!
They’ll make friends, they’ll argue and fall out with friends. They will hate someone one day and be best friends the next. The playground is where they learn a good chunk of their social interaction skills. It’s not always plain sailing and it’s probably one of the biggest things teachers deal with on a daily basis. Every school has systems in place for helping kids manage their friendships. If you are worried, ask about it.
I have this worry too. Fussy eater. Will he eat? Will he be tired and grumpy in the afternoon if he hasn’t eaten? Well, I’m just going to have to wait and see. There are lunch monitors who will check what your child is eating and chivvy them along so they get time to play as well.
There are accidents. They are always dealt with discreetly and in a school there are always a million spare items of everything for just such an event. So if it happens, it’s not the end of the world.
You would not believe the amount of times I have had a parent tell me that their perfectly behaved child is a nightmare at home. It’s a strange one but children do tend to behave better for other people. I am praying that mine is in that category too!
It is a really long day for them and they will be knackered when they come home. It’s ok for them to have a bit of T.V. time or something a little chilled when they get back. I had a little boy who used to zonk out anytime we sang in the afternoon. It became a little routine to let him sit in the library corner when we started singing so he could crash out on the cushions. Your wee one is an individual. Every teacher will treat them as such and do their very best to provide what they need to get the most out of them when they are there.
The morning line is always a major source of anxiety if your child is reluctant to go in. This is a big one for us too. It is such a hard one for a parent but I guarantee you that the vast majority of kiddies settle completely after 5 mins in the classroom. There are so many distractions and exciting things to do that as soon as the register is done and they’ve had a wee cuddle they will be dandy. And yes, it may well happen again the next morning but they do all eventually get there.
I think the thing that I’ll find the hardest moving forward, is not getting the same level of daily feedback as we do from our son’s pre-school provider. They are unbelievably good at sharing how your child is coping and developing, what kind of morning they’ve had, whether or not there has been an issue and to be honest, it is really unlikely that you will get that same feedback in a school setting. But be assured, if there is a problem, someone will be in touch! If things are quiet it’s usually a good thing!
And please remember that we spend a whole lot of time with your children. We are ferociously protective of them because for that year they are ‘our kids’. We want to see them thrive, we want to see them happy and we want to keep them safe. We wouldn’t do the job if working with kids wasn’t in our blood because despite all common stereotypes, teaching is not an easy ride!
So, have I answered your major worries or alleviated any fears? Have you got any others? I’m happy to answer any that I can and direct you to the best place to answer your question if I can’t. Feel free to drop them in the Facebook comments.
And if you liked the look of any of the images throughout and thought...'gosh, wouldn't it be nice to have something like that of my little one,' then fret not...I can help there too. Click on the link below and I'll have you sorted in a jiffy. I'm all about being helpful!
And that's all for this week. All the best to all the little people embarking on their brave new adventures in August. I'll be thinking of all the Mums out there who will be a tad emotional and messy come 9:30 on that first morning, just like me!