So having been a primary school teacher for 15 years, it always used to make me wonder, on the first few days back in September, why parents (generally Foundation Stage Parents and very rarely parents from other year groups, as they’d had their fill of their own children by the end of the 6 week break) would be crying.
Dads would be wiping away stray tears in a macho kind of way, Mums would be openly weeping into their hankies, tears bouncing down their coats on to their unsuspecting 4/5 year olds on their first ever day at Primary School. I mean what a way to settle their child in to a new setting, with new adult faces, new friends and new surroundings. The old me would just usher the parents away and the children inside the classroom and get on with taking their coats off, sorting out their lunches or taking the register in an organised way.
Then 3 years ago I had my own child and did my perception of those crying, weeping, red faced parents change. Unbeknown to me I would now join that club- the crying club, the “my baby is going in to a new school, new setting, new adult faces, new friends and new surroundings club- and this was only on her first hour at nursery, not even primary school.
So when I was asked to write my top tips from me as a teacher to a parent to prepare them for starting school- I had to really think, because even though I am a teacher, more importantly I’m a mother too.
1. Establish a routine– This is a definite- if you don’t then you will be eaten alive by your smart child outwitting you in- the cereal cupboard, the wardrobe, the bathroom, the shoe cupboard, the coat hooks and even your car, because most children are excited about their first day at school, but children will be children and will prey on your first day nerves if you give them chance!!!
2. It’s ok to cry– it might be for the first few minutes as you see your child in their school uniform, ironed within an inch of its life, or it might be as you walk across the playground towards the Foundation Stage Door. It’s ok to cry- after all you’re leaving your child in someone else’s care, you’re sharing him with us, but rest assured your child will get their every need met. From holding his hand, wiping away that river of tears as you walk away from him, helping him to make friends and changing him in to his PE kit and back again.
3. Never look back– You’ve just handed over your pot of gold, your diamond, your treasure box to a lady at the door. You’re crying, they are crying. One kiss goodbye and then walk away and never look back. DO NOT EVER ENTER THE CLASSROOM! This may seem harsh and it is, because if you see your child upset, then your maternal instinct is to come back, to comfort, and to hug. Don’t- because children are stealth like in knowing how to get their parents to feel bad. In reality the minute you’ve gone out of sight- your child is happy, giggling, playing with a new toy and more importantly making those first steps to lifelong friendships- you on the other hand are still sobbing on the steering wheel or on the main high street, wondering what pain your child is going through!!!
4. Label, Label, Label– This may sound like simple advice but the number of parents and carers that forget to label their child’s clothes is mega. If you can imagine 30 4/5 year olds all with socks, vests, shorts, skirts, jumpers and sometimes knickers/pants all in a pile- it’s a teachers worst nightmare. Especially when. at the end of the day, we hand your child to you in their nearly new uniform to be told that their child came in trousers not shorts that day. This can endanger parent/ teacher relationships for life, or at least the first school year.
5. Pack the lunchbox with your child- A teacher, Teaching Assistant, Mid-day Assistant/Dinner lady’s biggest woe that can cause a full hour of tears, is the opening of the lunch box at 12.00pm. If your child has never seen the contents of their lunch box before the 12.00pm unveiling, this can cause your child to have a full blown meltdown in the dinner hall which, sometimes results in other children crying in sympathy. Tears worse than when their beloved Mummy or Daddy left them in their classroom for the very first time. Because every child wants to find the best, unhealthiest food in their lunch box. Alas most parents fill their child’s lunch box with healthy, nutritious food, food that unfortunately children don’t always want to eat at lunch time. However the opposite end to this spectrum is the unhealthy lunch box, which sadly has to be taken away from the child as it doesn’t fit in to the schools healthy eating policy- again tears, tantrums and tummy rumblings- who said lunchtimes were easy!!
However if all else fails- you can wing it. You’ve been the centre of your child’s world for as long as they’ve been alive, but when the first day of school comes and it will- you’re best just winging it!! Because as much as you can follow these tips rigidly, there will always be something that throws your morning. If you can get your child to school in their uniform, fed, watered and looking presentable then you have succeeded. Obviously you’ll look rubbish- red eyes, puffy face, track suit bottoms and trainers, but who cares as long as your child is ready for their day at primary school. Yummy Mummies do not exist!!!
Written by Caroline Lowe