About an hour into the first day of school a kindergartner began to sniffle, trying to hold back his tears. When I approached him he whispered, "I miss my Mommy, my Grandma, my Auntie and my sister. I want to go home!" I led him over to the schedule and showed him what he'd do today so he'd know when he got to go home to his family. As I finished his eyes widened. "Miss," he whispered, "you forgot nap time!"
"Oh, there isn't nap time in kindergarten," I had to say, feeling like the meanest woman on earth. "But there is quiet time. You can look at books." He didn't appreciate my feeble attempt to sell it. "No nap time?" he whispered, in true horror. Slowly and sadly I shook my head. "No nap time."
As adults it's easy for us to forget how rough the first days of kindergarten can be, especially for children who didn't go to preschool- or even those who did but went for half a day or were able to take a two hour nap. We are asking so much of those little five year olds in those first few days-- from sitting still for longer periods of time than they've ever been asked to do before, to going all day without a nap. (I know some five year olds have given up their afternoon naps by kindergarten, but some haven't.)
The boy's big eyes have haunted me all week. "No nap?" As though he was questioning what kind of place he'd been sent. Those eyes were a good reminder to not expect students to already be where I want them to be the first week of school. To slow down and teach everything I want to them to know and understand. To be slower and more understanding as children learn routines. Not to change my expectations of what they learn, but to be more understanding as they learn them. Before we know it October will be here and the students will all know the routines and be comfortable with what we expect from them. Until then, I need to keep in mind where they are coming from as a way to remind myself to be patient as we adapt together.