Parents sadly steel themselves for happy 1st day of kindergarten BACK TO SCHOOL

August 30, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Leona Mundt has not had a single child cry on the first day of kindergarten in her four years at Meade Heights Elementary School.

The parents weep.

"There are a lot of tears when the kids get on line the first day to go in, and it's the parents. I think it's harder for the parents to let go than for the child," Mrs. Mundt said.

There was no sobbing by kindergarten parents yesterday.

That will start Thursday, as kindergartners begin staggered entrance, with Sept. 7 as the first day for all of them.

Instead, there were parent-teacher conferences, the official meeting for grown-ups to size each other up as they sit on furniture designed for people half their size in a room decorated with Disney characters.

Meade Heights parents heard about cooking day, school supplies and myriad forms.

They could bring their children to the conferences, as Lauren Rollman did with Christopher.

He's her third child. She's adjusted to sending the kids to kindergarten. She knows the teacher; she will volunteer in the classroom.

She is concerned that Christopher is in morning kindergarten while most of his neighborhood playmates are in the afternoon session, but not so concerned that she is seeking to switch him.

"I was very emotional with Child No. 1," she said. "I cried the first day." And when the second child began school, she was "prepared."

But she's not quite ready to shove Christopher out the door and won't promise not to get misty-eyed.

"With him, he's the baby. I kind of protect him a little more," she said.

As Mrs. Mundt talked about the field trips she is planning, Christopher draped himself over his mother's lap.

"I'm not going to cry. If I was going to, I would have done it before when she went to day care," said Cherri Scott, who said her daughter Ameir thinks both she and her mother will be carrying books to school. Ms. Scott recently began a clerical training program.

At Meade Heights, the parent conference includes Janna Kish of Glen Burnie, who is student-teaching with Mrs. Mundt daily through Oct. 28. The University of Maryland Baltimore County senior has student-taught part time previously, and said she was more nervous about meeting with parents yesterday than about teaching their children.

"This is my first parent conference experience," she said. "I wasn't sure what to do, how they would react."

The first parent set a pleasant tone for the day, she said, which calmed her. By 1 p.m., she was taking over some of the conferences -- except for the discussion of discipline. The student teacher played with children while parents talked to Mrs. Mundt.

Ms. Kish said there are so many things she has yet to learn about running a classroom.

But Mrs. Mundt complimented her and put her at ease.

First, Mrs. Mundt said, Ms. Kish has student-taught in kindergartens in Baltimore County. And second, she said, speaking of student teachers, "Whatever they lack in experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm."

Besides, Ms. Kish, 21, grew up as the daughter of a Navy officer, and that can offer an instant bond for kids whose school is on a military base, she noted.

With classes composed almost exclusively of children from the Fort Meade military post and Sarah's House homeless shelter, Meade Heights has a school population in constant flux.

Of the 48 kindergarten pupils enrolled at noon yesterday only one is a child from neither the base nor the shelter.

But of the 48 projected to start kindergarten next month, Mrs. Mundt expects perhaps only half will be there for the last day of school: Two years ago, only 17 remained of the original 46, but she had taught 76 children that year.

And Mrs. Mundt said she needs the help.

Meade Heights lost its Chapter I funding this year, a program that helps pay for classroom assistants and supplies in schools that have a high percentage of low-income families. That funding put an assistant in Mrs. Mundt's kindergarten last year, but she will be relying more heavily on parent volunteers this year.

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