08/28/09 — Their school debut

View Archive

Their school debut

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 28, 2009 1:46 PM

Full Size


Rosewood Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sadie Simmons introduces Ashley Sarmento to the classroom on her first day of school Thursday. Kindergarten classes operate on a staggered schedule this week, to allow smaller groups of students to transition into the new routine.

Full Size


Brogden Primary kindergarten student Jasmine Stone works on writing her name during classes Thursday afternoon.

Philip Rhodes, camera around his neck, was at Rosewood Elementary School early Thursday to drop off his daughter, Karrigann, for her first day of kindergarten.

"She's my fifth child -- my last child," he said.

Inside the classroom, teacher Amanda Jones showed her new student around and told her about some of the day's activities.

"Her major decision this morning was chips or Doritos," her dad said.

The 5-year-old had "mixed emotions" about starting school, he said.

"I don't think she actually realizes she's got to be away for six hours," he said.

His wife was also holding back tears as she left the room, and was being consoled by Sadie Simmons, grade level chair for kindergarten.

"We moved from the Norwayne/Tommy's Road area," Rhodes said. "So it's new for all (of the children)."

Adjustment is hard, Ms. Simmons explained, for both parent and child.

"It's good that we don't have a whole lot of (students) at one time," she said. "This staggered enrollment has been the best thing."

First day of classes for the district was Tuesday. Kindergarten operates on a different schedule, with small groups assigned each day this week and the first collective day on Monday.

"It's a lot easier getting to know them," said Ms. Jones, a first-year kindergarten teacher. "They get to know us and the routine. We get to know them better, what they like, what they don't like."

Gary Kelly was dropping off his daughter, Savannah, in Ms. Simmons' room, accompanied by his older daughter, Stormy, 16, a junior at Rosewood High School.

All went swimmingly until it was time to leave.

"I think we have a problem," Stormy said as her younger sister hugged her tightly and began to cry.

"Any time you need a hug today, Ms. Simmons will give you a hug," her teacher said.

"Just like last year, nothing to be worried about," dad reassured.

"So you know about school?" Ms. Simmons asked Savannah.

"Oh, she's an expert," Kelly replied.

Stepping out into the hallway to allow the family to say their goodbyes, Ms. Simmons awaited the rest of her students.

"I have seen it all, just about," she said. This is her 32nd year of teaching.

"I used to give out bubble gum to criers because you can't chew and cry at the same time," she said. "Actually, when the parents get out, the crying usually stops."

Also, she pointed out, "They never cry walking in."

Hope Porter, instructional assistant in the classroom next door, had the opposite situation.

"We had one child that was so happy, that he's not stopped grinning," she said, pointing to a young man playing with two other students on a carpeted area.

"His name is Benjamin Peacock," she said. "He's still grinning. His parents said he was the first one up this morning."

As the bell rang signaling the start of the day, Ms. Simmons asked about a project she had assigned as they arrived. They were asked to decorate the long strip of paper that would serve as a headband and identify them for the day.

"Mine is a pattern," said Ashley Sarmento, pointing to a succession of stickers she had added. "Big one, little one, big one, little one."

"Oh, you know about patterns," Ms. Simmons said before summoning the students to a carpeted area, taking her seat in a rocking chair.

"We have got lots of fun things planned for you today," she said, then asked for volunteers to come up and introduce themselves.

Ashley was first, sharing her birthday, that she has a 9-year-old brother and a "black and blue cat" named Snowbell.

"Who's next?" Ms. Simmons asked.

Savannah, tears now subsided, raised her hand.

"I'm so glad you're feeling better," Ms. Simmons said.

Savannah said she also has a pet cat, who just had four kittens.

"Are they all still at your house?" her teacher asked.

"She's nursing them," Savannah replied.

"So you have a science lesson going on at home," Ms. Simmons said with a smile.

Next to share was Teagan Lewis.

"Teagan, that's a cool name," Ms. Simmons said.

"Mommy thinked it up," he said, before telling about the new pet lizard he had found the day before.

Over at Brogden Primary School, students in Jinjer Painter Haskett's kindergarten class chatted about the newness of school -- from riding the bus and getting a new first-day outfit, to what they got to do once there.

"I saw big kids on the bus," said Jasmine Stone.

"I could sing, 'The wheels on the bus,'" added Amber Zimmerman.

"I got a brand new outfit," said Jiliyah Gaines, pointing to her brown and pink ensemble.

"I got a lot of brand new outfits," Patrick Pipkin-Ginn said.

Mrs. Haskett was already impressed with Patrick's progress on his first day.

"The first time he came for kindergarten registration, he wouldn't tell us his name. He was Spiderman and shot us with his web," she said.

It was late morning and the class was preparing to line up for lunch. They had already been out to the school's new playground, and weighed in on the experience.

"Man, the playground is cool," Amber said, recounting all the things she had seen while outside. "It's something two people can do, like a sitting thing you can jump on with two people. Even three people. And then there's a thing you can spin on, and a slide, and a log -- a fake log. And a fish."

"It's a large fish. You can walk through him," explained Wendy Hooks, the school's principal.

"I was sitting and I throwed the ball. I love that game," Jasmine said.

In Kim Langston's class, Lori Benning, an instructional assistant, stopped in to see her youngest child, Sarah, who just started kindergarten. Mrs. Benning is a former teacher, who returned to work as an aide to spend more time with her own three children.

"I want to help my three girls at home with homework and things like that," she said. "I'm glad they're in school and I can work with the students."

Several were checking out the "centers," featuring different activities such as puppets or reading.

Cindy Cooley, an instructional assistant, worked with Tommy Rivers, asking if he could draw the same letter she demonstrated.

"I can't know that," Tommy said.

Not all 5-year-olds can know everything put before them, Ms. Langston said, which is why she spends the first day they arrive doing assessments. She spends time with each student, seeing what they already know -- letters, parts of a book, shapes, colors, how far they can count.

"Five-year-olds learn by doing, being able to feel and try things out and we like to let them do that," she said. "That's the developmentally appropriate thing, not just keeping them at their desk. With everything they need to know now, we have to do it a developmentally appropriate way, so they don't even know they're learning."

Kindergarten is a "big transition time" for children, said Ms. Langston, a teacher for three years but in the school system for more than 20.

"I started off volunteering, substituting, several years as an instructional assistant," she said. "You see over the years what works and what doesn't."

So now with a classroom of her own, she realizes the importance of taking "little tiny steps."

"A month from now they'll be able to stay on task and do things easier," she said. The staggered first-week schedule allows time to learn the children and ease them into the routine, "because school is a big place for them."

It can also be hard on parents, she said.

"We had one parent to cry. No babies cried. Oh, I've got to stop calling them babies," she said.