Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First Grade - First Day of School

Monday was Henry's first day of first grade. He is going to public school this year, which to me is a very big difference from his days at the small Montessori he had attended from 18 months - kindergarten.

I tried talking to him about this all summer long to keep an open dialog and make sure that he felt comfortable expressing any nervousness or anxiety he might feel. I knew I had nervousness and anxiety about the change, so I totally anticipated that he would, too. Usually, when I brought it up, he would respond and quickly change the subject. Not in a way that indicated he didn't want to talk about it, but in a way that indicated he didn't think it was a very interesting topic: Yeah, I'm going to a new school at the end of summer. Big deal! Let's talk about something that applies to me NOW!

I had taken him with me when I registered in June. I was hoping we'd have some freedom to roam the halls and start acclimating ourselves to this new environment. But there were activities going on in some of the classrooms so we weren't allowed to. We were told that we could attend the Kindergarten open house in August, but were also told that it really was geared towards the kindergartners and that we probably wouldn't get much useful information by attending. I called a few days before that open house, and was again told that it wouldn't be appropriate for him to attend, but that another open house was being held for the rest of the students.

Sure enough, we got a post card a few days later inviting us to attend the open house to meet the teachers. The classroom assignments were posted by the school entrance on Friday, August 21. I swung by there and noted Henry's teacher's name. Not that it meant anything to me as I knew absolutely nothing about any of the teachers at this school and really didn't know anyone who had attended that I could pump for info. But at least we had a name and I could work with Henry on learning that new name.

The meet and greet was on Thursday, August 20th. After Henry got home from his field trip to the Kemah Boardwalk, we raced up to the school...both of us anxious to meet this new person that would have such an influence on Henry for the next 9 months. She seemed nice. With it being an open house, there wasn't much of an opportunity for one-on-one conversation. However, I did get the opportunity to share with her a letter I had written and a brochure explaining the impact of Henry being one of Jehovah's Witnesses would have on his life in the classroom. She is entering her 5th year as a teacher and has not had a JW in her classroom yet. She seemed to appreciate the information that I shared and said that she would reach out to me with any additional questions she had after reading the materials I left her and as we approached the holiday season. I felt pretty good about how that went.

After checking out the classroom a bit, we decided to explore the rest of the school. We met the Librarian in the hallway and Henry inquired as to how many books were in her library. I think he was appropriately impressed when she announced that there were about 14,000 books.

Then, it was off to the cafeteria to take care of a few other essentials, like ordering him his school spirit shirt. I must say I was extremely disappointed in the school's choice of theme this year. The spirit shirts are camouflage. To me, camouflage represents military and war. I really don't want to see my 6 year old wearing something that represents war. When the time is right, I will express my feelings to the principal. Against my better judgment, I did purchase a shirt for Henry. We'll see if I can actually let him wear it when spirit day rolls around.

We were also able to set up his cafeteria account. I intend to continue packing Henry's lunches, but thought he might want to add a milk or occasionally eat the cafeteria fare. Interesting to find out that the way it all works is that the student has to key in their student ID into a keypad to pay for his cafeteria lunches. Wow, I wonder how long it will take for Henry to memorize his 6 digit ID number for occasional uses in the cafeteria?

Next, we signed up for the placard we needed to hang from the rearview mirror for pick-ups. I must say, that have this down to a science, but this is another 3 digit number Henry needs to remember for their after-school pick-up process.

Okay...whew, I think we are all set for the first day. We've met the teacher. We're signed up for the cafeteria and pick-up line. We've gone clothes shopping and school supply shopping and got all of the noted prerequisites. We've labeled everything with Henry's name or initials. We even special-ordered the pencils with Henry's name printed on them. We've got the new backpack and lunchbox, complete with embroidered initials straight from the Land's End website.

On Sunday evening, we spent a fun afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese (see yesterday's post) celebrating the end of summer and start of school. But the rest of the day was very low-key. I also wanted to make sure that he got into bed at his normal bedtime since he would be waking much earlier the next day. Nana stopped by and read him "The Night Before First Grade".


I must say, when Henry's alarm went off at 6:30, he wasn't too happy. He felt like he had been awakened in the middle of the night (like when we go on vacation to Chicago). But it didn't take long for the excitement of the day to take over.

We had picked the outfit the night before, so he quickly got himself dressed and headed off to the bathroom to brush his teeth and hair. I had a surprise waiting for him in there.


It was a special note written on the mirror with the new Crayola window markers. He really enjoyed it. I tried to line the heart up to where I thought his head would be looking in the mirror. As a matter of fact, he wanted to leave this on the mirror and have me update it each day with whatever day of school it is. So, there I was last night, erasing the "1st" and replacing it with "2nd".

After we got downstairs, Leslie's mom called to wish him a good first day. Here he is chatting with her:


After breakfast and lunch packing, we headed outside for the photo shoot. Here are a couple of poses before we left for school. Notice the shirt change. Yep, he spilled his breakfast on the first orange shirt we had put on him. I couldn't send him to school (or take first day pictures) looking like that. Fortunately, he had another orange shirt in his wardrobe.


Then we went and picked up Papa. I anticipated that traffic around the school was going to be hectic. So the plan was for Papa to drop Henry and I off and then go somewhere nearby and hang out until I was ready. It worked pretty well and allowed me to walk in with Henry without getting all hot and sweaty.

All the first graders (all 9 classes of them) lined up in the hallway in the First Grade Pod. About 15 minutes before school was scheduled to start, one of the teachers told the parents to kiss their kids good-bye because they were heading off to the classrooms now. I asked his teacher if I had to leave or could I go to the classroom. She said it would be fine if I went to the classroom with them. Henry's classroom is actually in the 2nd grade pod. I hung out for about 15 more minutes and watched as the teacher patiently helped the kids unpack all of their school supplies and get their lunchboxes and backpacks organized. It truly reinforced for me how special teachers really are.


When I picked Henry up yesterday, he announced that he'd been chosen for a special assignment to move the lunchboxes to the cafeteria. Interestingly, he also forgot to bring home his own lunchbox. He later shared that the teacher had warned him that if he continued to talk in the hallway, he was going to lose his job. Yep, that's my boy!

He was quite upset to find that many of the school supplies that we had meticulously picked out ended up as community property in the classroom. "But mom, they're going to write in my notebook. What if they just scribble scrabble?" The funniest part of this was "They're even going to share my sanitizer!"...oh the inhumanity of it. We finally had to leave the subject alone because he really was upset about it, even to the point of tears.

Henry was truly exhausted last night and took himself upstairs for his bedtime routine a full 30 minutes before I would have required it. He decided to take a bubble bath last night (he usually opts for showers) and I think it was a good choice to help calm him for good nights rest.

One of his "homework" assignments is for him and I to read together for 15 minutes each day. This is not a problem for us as it has always been part of our routine. But he is much more aware now and wants to make sure that he gets his full 15 minutes. And the reading we do must be logged on his homework sheet each night and returned to school the next day. So we each picked a book and climbed into bed. In the end, Henry got to bed 30 minutes earlier than his normal bedtime and woke in a great frame of mind this morning.

Since he left his lunchbox at school, we decided he should eat the cafeteria food today. Nana read him the menu and he selected the option that included the broccoli spears and fresh fruit salad (of course). Maybe I cheated, but I wrote his 6-digit number on a piece of paper and tucked it in his pocket to help him when it came time to "pay" for his lunch.

Before we left, he indicated that he didn't want me to walk him in today. He wanted to go in by himself. He assured me that he knew exactly where he needed to go. I was disappointed, but game to let him exert his independence. However, when we got close to the school, he started wavering about being so sure that he knew where to go. I also spied an open parking space right in front of the school. So I decided to park and walk in with him afterall. He wasn't too happy about this, but announced happily "I know. I'll just walk ahead of you and pretend you're not there." Ouch! In the end, he didn't mind that I walked in with him and even graced me with a good-bye kiss without me having to ask.

Oy, why do they have to grow up so fast?


  1. All in all, in sounds like it has been a good first day of public school first grade for mother and son. It will have it's challenges, but for the most part it will be a success. Good for both of you!

  2. What a great post! Happy days in 1st grade dear Henry! Carter and Miss M are in 1st grade also this year.

    I am with Henry, I was shocked when we first realized that our precious school supplies were community supplies. :-0 It's like packing your suitcase and then having other travelers say "we all just use this community deodorant and tooth paste." No thanks!

    Ouch is right, I too know that "I can do this by myself stuff." They grow too fast!

  3. fabulous recap. can't believe he's growing up so fast! he's such a good boy, paula. you really are the "ubermom".