Kindergarten from a safe distance

Either their little hands wave wildly in the air for attention or they sit as still as stone, trying to figure out just how they ended up here.

I love the first week of kindergarten, which I can watch from my library desk. It is always poignant but also hilarious, because kids that age are funny, even when they don’t intend to be. And so begins the new school year, providing me with delicious laughs courtesy of the latest gang of newly arrived, adorable 5-year-olds.

As testing began to assess where each child is on the basics, one young one seemed to know numbers one through 26, but 27 came out 2,740. I think things just weren’t moving fast enough for him.

That same syndrome showed up when one youngster wearily asked his teacher “Why do we have to sit so much?” This one will probably make the Olympic team, but I sense classrooms are never going to be his favorite place.

The line of the day came from one who raced up to his teacher to say, “Mr. D! I just saw a kindergartener who looked like a 20gartener!” This year, fewer first-day meltdowns were reported, but of course there was at least one who has cried every morning for five days. Sigh.

To add to the general mayhem, the air-conditioning shut down in the kindergarten pod during a couple of the hottest August days. Most of the classes ended up in the always cool library for at least a story time. The teachers looked like they had just finished 20 minutes in the sauna.

And of course, the teacher who made the move from sixth grade to kindergarten this year, got to deal with the student tossing her cookies all over the new classroom rug. Another believes she has set a personal record by catching a cold before the first week ended.

The week went on with the occasional wide-eyed one wandering into the library searching for their classroom or lunch, or the playground. Even I will admit, that to nervous, unfamiliar 5-year-old eyes, all the walls are beige, all the doors are blue and nobody looks familiar. I’m thinking we need some color-coded buildings, or maybe painted footsteps to follow.

But part of me loves the chance to kneel down and give that puzzled, sometimes frightened little face a smile and reassurance that everything is going to be OK. It’s a very special way to make a new friend.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who is quite fond of the newbies. Contact her at


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