Opinion

Gerding: Kindergarten marks start of a long journey for youngsters

“This will be the first day of the rest of your life.”

With those words from my wife, she and I embarked on our daughter’s first day in kindergarten.

That kind of build-up caught me a little off-guard, as I thought maybe that’s what you say to your son or daughter when they graduate high school, or university.

But it reminded me of the reality that going to school is still a big deal to kids, even if they probably don’t quite understand it all at the kindergarten age of 5 or 6. Frightening and exciting all at the same time.

As part of the Echo Boom written about in our close-up feature last week by assistant editor Alistair Waters, we are contributors to the crush of new students joining the school system at the kindergarten level.

And we are also part of a still relatively new experiment in B.C.—kids going to kindergarten class for a full day.

I’m not sure what to make of that idea yet, but as parents with another pre-school aged child still at home, the idea of dispatching one of the kids to school for the day offers considerable appeal.

But with the first day of class on Wednesday, our first introduction to the teacher and vice versa, you realize your child is entering a tunnel for the next 13 years of their life that holds so much excitement, so much promise and so much trepidation all at the same time.

I am fond of saying that teenagers enter a tunnel during their adolescence and parents hope their kids emerge on the other side intact. You hope what you have taught them in their childhood years will see them through to the other side.

But as we walked into our daughter’s new classroom, her thin fingers gripping the hands of her mother and me—perhaps a little tighter than usual—undoubtedly feeling a little overwhelmed at this new step her young life, I began to think perhaps that tunnel starts sooner than I thought.

For me, my two most vivid memories of school don’t include kindergarten or even Grade 1.

Instead, I think back to dealing with transferring from one school to another over the Christmas holidays in Grade 4. My mom walked me to my new school, I was escorted to class and  the teacher proceeded to have every student stand up and introduce themselves to me. As the new kid who just wanted to blend in with some anonymity, I was mortified. I just wanted to crawl under my desk and hide.

The other memory was entering junior high in Grade 8, of making that jump from elementary to high school, of going to a school that was overcrowded where the Grade 10s were treated with great reverence and student-initiated prank bomb scares were a weekly occurrence. But all that drama made for perhaps the most exciting year of my K-12 experience.

What’s in store for my daughter, I don’t know, other than to hope she experiences many positive memories that will stick with her as an adult and perhaps talk to her kids about one day.

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