Missoula kindergartners make first trip to school

2010-08-30T23:00:00Z 2010-08-31T05:55:49Z Missoula kindergartners make first trip to schoolBy JAMIE KELLY of the Missoulian missoulian.com
August 30, 2010 11:00 pm  • 

A dancing girl interrupted class Monday morning with a wee announcement.

"I have to go pee! I have to go pee!"

In case nobody heard the first time.

Kiersten England and Wilma Tabaracci halted their lecture. The teachers know bathroom time waits for no kindergartner.

"OK, you go right ahead," said England.

The little girl was way ahead of her teacher, halfway out the door already. She went down the hall, took a right, and - just like the directions said - wandered into the little girls' room.

England and Tabaracci, who share this class, got back to their lecture to the adults in their kindergarten room on the first day of school at Chief Charlo Elementary.

"We require that each child give us a high-five and point out their adults before they leave for the day," said England, her kind voice soothing nervous, oversized adults awkwardly straddling tiny chairs. "If they don't do that, we will not let them go."

In between cracking their knuckles and scribbling down the information, the moms and dads peeked across the room at their kids, who were camped in a circle watching a video about a dog named Spot.

A video on the first day of school! (Don't get used to that.)

They had earned it - Annabella, Jake, Katelin, all 20 of them. They spent the morning tracing their hands and making construction-paper cutouts for their lockers, finding the "special place" set aside for their backpacks, getting acquainted with the protocols at Chief Charlo.

The little girl returned, announced briefly that she had wandered into the wrong classroom, then parked herself in front of the video, right next to a girl picking her nose.

Meanwhile, her mom and all the nervous parents were told by Tabaracci that they shouldn't send toys to school ("too many tears"). That big mud puddles form at Chief Charlo, and the kids need a change of clothes ("It's very difficult to keep a child out of a puddle"). That there will be homework, which is expected to be turned in ("Graduation Matters starts right now").

And that Mrs. England is herself the mother of a kindergartner who began her life of learning Monday morning, and that Tuesday she will have to leave her child, just like these parents will leave theirs to her care.

"So, if you want to meet me tomorrow at the flagpole and cry ... ," said England.

Principal David Rott poked his head in. "Just want to say welcome to Chief Charlo, and if you have any questions, you can always come to me." He was addressing all of them, big and small.

The parents were given a big packet of information - what's expected of them, what's expected of their children, what they can expect from their school.

Meanwhile, the video ended and the kids came stumbling back to their moms and dads. Little Allison picked up a magnifying glass and held it to her face.

Andrah fidgeted a bit in her mom's lap.

"I want to go play."

"whisper whisper whisper ..."

"But the kids," she said, pointing to the busy playground outside. "Look at the kids!"

"whisper whisper whisper ..."

"Are we done yet?"

"whisper whisper whisper ..."

"Can we go look at the fish?"

The whispers were definitely not going Andrah's way.

But that's OK, because this short day was almost over.

England asked them all to join her for storytime. The story was "The Kissing Hand," about a young raccoon off to his first day of school.

Mom raccoon kissed her boy's young paw, and so every time he put his paw up to his face, he could feel his mom's love. Even when mom was far away.

Good story. But of course, there would be homework. (Get used to that.)

"Your homework tonight," England said to her class, "is you need to get a Kissing Hand on your left hand."

Easy enough! It's almost like mom and dad got the assignment!

"But most important of all," she continued, "is you need to give your mom and dad a Kissing Hand, because tomorrow is going to be a hard day for them."

See you tomorrow! She passed out cookies made in the shape of a hand, with a Hershey's Kiss stuck right on the palm.

Outside, the kids slapped their high-fives and pointed to their adult - each performing beyond expectations.

"Thank you for leaving your children in our hands and our arms," said England. "We will love them."

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.

 

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