Kindergarten jitters

Emotions: The first day of a child's school career can be a big test for adults, too.

September 03, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

Judy Ideo left out a word in a sentence and skipped a page in the book she was reading to her class. Lavern Shaw couldn't keep from crying, and her son, Adam, 5, halfway through the day, wondered when it would be time to go home.

But all managed to survive their first day of kindergarten.

"I think it went pretty well," said Ideo, 23, at the end of the first day of her teaching career, which she started in a kindergarten class at Shady Side Elementary in south Anne Arundel County.

As for Adam, he declared the day a success. His sister hugged him when he got off the school bus and his mother was relieved that the tension of the first day was over.

"I feel better," she said. "But I am kind of tired now."

The start of kindergarten -- the fall ritual that marks the first time a child steps into the world beyond Mommy and Daddy -- can be as rough on the adults as on the children.

Wednesday night, as Shaw packed Adam's red, blue and black backpack with tissues, hand soap, a composition book and peanut butter crackers, she thought she was ready. She was looking forward to putting her firstborn on the bus that would take him into the world. And although she tossed and turned during the night, she did not think she was nervous.

At 8: 20 yesterday morning, Adam was jumping up and down on the sidewalk in front of his Columbia Beach house.

"My engine is starting," he said to his mother.

"I think your engine has already started," she told him.

Shaw, with her daughter, Trisha, 3, close behind, walked Adam down the street to the bus stop at Lincoln and Columbia Beach roads. She didn't feel teary as she warned her son to stay out of the street while they waited for the bus.

"Do they know where kindergarten is?" Adam asked his mother.

Parting tears

Every time he heard car engines in the distance, Adam yelled, "Here it is, here it is." He did that three times before Bus 59 rounded the corner and the driver swung the doors open for him to step inside. Adam did not need any encouragement.

"Bye, Trish," he yelled, waving as he climbed up.

"Bye," Trish said, starting to cry. "I don't want him to go. I want to go with him. Why can't I ride the bus?"

Their mother was crying, too. "No, honey, we are going to go home and do some girl things. Dust a little, do the dishes and read your new book."

A few minutes later, back in their living room, Shaw cradled her daughter and thought back 34 years to her first day of kindergarten at Whitaker Elementary School in Pittsburgh. Her teacher was strict, she remembered, and always wore pearls or colorful beads around her neck. Like Adam, she was not frightened and did not cry.

Shaw wondered whether her mother acted the same way she did -- crying as she sent her baby off to school.

"I figured I would do better," Shaw said. "But it didn't feel this way when he went to preschool. This feels so different."

All set to teach

While Shaw was hugging her daughter, Ideo made last-minute checks around her classroom. The weather board -- where her young charges would use stickers to note the day's temperature and sky -- was ready. The day's activities were neatly written on the chalkboard.

She was ready.

"I was here until 10 last night," she said. "I wanted to make sure that everything was just right."

Ideo, who graduated in December from Towson University, has been waiting years for this day to come. As a child, she set up a small chalkboard in her bedroom and held class with her friends as students. And if her friends, who sometimes got tired of her imaginary play, were not around, she taught her Cabbage Patch Kids.

She does not remember much about her own first day of school at Pointer Ridge Elementary School in Bowie -- only that Mrs. Ward loved to sing and that her class shared a big room with another kindergarten class.

"I loved Mrs. Ward, so I imagine I loved kindergarten, too," she said.

Time to go yet?

When Adam and his classmates arrived, Ideo had them sit in a circle around her rocking chair. They talked about the weather, filled out the calendar with the day, date, month and year, and helped her write on a large clipboard what the class rules would be.

"Don't run," Adam answered, remembering what his mother had told him that morning.

Ideo's talk about rules reminded Adam of his mother and sister.

"When is it time to go home?" he asked, interrupting Ideo as she was trying to move the class along to the next activity.

"Not yet," she said. "You don't want to go home yet. We still have so much to do."

Adam seemed satisfied and turned to the next activity, searching for Brown Bear, who had disappeared while Ideo read the class a story about him.

Ideo's day went as planned and at 11: 45 a.m., she had Adam and the rest of the class lined up and waiting to get back on their buses.

"I wasn't really that nervous," she said. "I mean, these are 5-year-olds, how nervous could I get?"

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