Josie Ortega went straight to the source to bring the most relevant advice for rising kindergartners. Read on to get excited for #BackToSchool and the beginning of a new elementary school adventure in kindergarten!
At the pool this summer, between shark games and cannonballs, I chatted with my rising second grader about what she thinks her younger sister should know before starting kindergarten. Our wise, experienced elementary student was generous with her advice! Listen in:
Ok, so. What does Inez need to know for kindergarten?
Well, the basics. You should be able to write your own name. And you should be able to read, like, one word. And, you should be confident in yourself.
How do you get confidence in yourself?
Go to that part of your brain . . . it’s fine if a lot of parts of your brain are nervous. But you should be able to find a part of your brain that knows you can do it. It’s OK to be nervous, but you have to believe in yourself and know that you’ll be fine.
What are some things that Inez should look forward to in kindergarten?
One of the most important things is to have friends, so I think Inez should look forward to meeting new friends and new people.
What’s your advice for meeting new friends and classmates?
You’ll meet a lot of new friends. Try to remember their names. If you want to play with someone, just go up and ask them to play. If you see someone who’s nervous on the first day, talk to them and see if they want to play or sit next to each other or something. That makes the start of friends.
What about boyfriends?
[Gives me a terrible look.]
You shouldn’t worry about that right now?
You definitely shouldn’t worry about that right now. Did you actually write that down????
How about teachers?
You should try to remember their names, too. You should probably see them and talk to them if you’re feeling nervous. If you have an Open House you might get to meet the teachers then.
So teachers are human people, too.
What if people are different from you? What if kids don’t know how to speak English, and they’re new to this country?
If you know some Spanish or whatever their language is, you could help translate for the teachers and help them learn English.
You could still play together.
Yeah, you could still play together at recess.
Do you want to give advice about students with special needs? You have some classes at your school with kids with special needs, and maybe in your class someone might have a special need.
Yeah. You just treat them like any other student. They are like any other classmate. I bet there’s going to be another teacher there to help them. So act like they’re normal, because they are. Try and make friends with them, too.
[Ed. Note: From the mouths of babes!]
What if you get lost?
I’ve never been lost at my school. But, you could find someone older than you and ask. There are many people there who know their way around the school, so they can help you find the kindergarten hall and find your class.
Your grandmother says her important advice is to find where the bathrooms are. Do you agree?
If you don’t know where the bathroom is, ask a teacher. If they have rules about when you should go, you should wait if you can, unless it’s an emergency.
[Ed. Note: When you gotta go, you gotta go.]
Any advice for the cafeteria?
I don’t think they’ll have assigned seats the first day. Sit where you want to sit. If you already made a friend that day, I would sit with them. Usually, you sit with your class. And you can try and make friends then if you haven’t yet.
What else? What’s your advice on what to wear?
You should wear something that YOU like. You don’t have to think, “Oh, all the other people are gonna like this!” It should be something you like and care about. If there’s a uniform, choose something you really like about the uniform.
You're saying she should choose the uniform option she likes best.
Yeah, and since we have uniforms, you could wear an accessory that you like. For example, my favorite bow, or some of my favorite shoes, or colorful socks that I like.
I remember it was an adjustment to go to school all day. Did you get tired after a full day of school?
I was proud that I could do school for that long. I felt like I was a little tired after I was done. You should just rest when you get home.
[Editor/Mother’s Note: Be prepared for meltdowns to the max when you get home! Create space for that, and take encouragement. It probably means your kid did a great job keeping it together all throughout the school day.]
What else should new kindergartners look forward to?
It’s fun, right?
Yeah, because in kindergarten the teachers make learning fun; it helps you enjoy it even more. There will be songs about math, and games on the iPad. On the first day, you just learn how to get used to the school and stuff. Then on maybe the third day, they figure out what level you’re on [to learn to read]. You’ll also learn how to write books. You first start out with small books. You’ll also learn social studies, like around the community.
Oh yeah! You took a field trip to the restaurant down the street! What about other field trips?
You might go to the zoo, then the planetarium. I really liked our field trips in kindergarten.
What other special classes will they have?
I really liked library because you could choose a book. I also liked music, art, and PE or gym. And you’ll have two recesses: afternoon and morning. Kindergarten is the only time that you get to have two recesses.
Did you have a least favorite part? Anything not to look forward to?
Well, not much. If you do have something that you don’t like about it . . . if it’s a thing, just don’t go near it. If you want to avoid it, avoid it. But I don’t think you should have anything you won’t like, because kindergarten’s really fun. If you have a problem, talk to your teachers. They should be able to figure it out and help you.
I remember your class talking about the difference between big problems and small problems.
If you get in a fight about a pencil, it would be a small problem. You could easily fix it by saying, “Oh I’ll get another pencil,” or “Can I have that when you’re done?”
What’s an example of a big problem?
If you got in a fight and you couldn’t fix it by saying anything, then you’d have to talk to a teacher.
So they’ll learn all about that. And what if you get in trouble?
Try to listen to your teachers. That would be a way to get out of the trouble zone.
Thank you, Wise Second Grader! Much of this kindergarten advice applies to life generally: learn people's names, find the bathrooms, wear something you like.
Enjoy watching your kindergartners learn and play, make new friends, and discover confidence in themselves—including the confidence to ask for help when it's needed.
For our next step, we parents also have to find the help we need when our babies head off to kindergarten! Remember: "It’s fine if a lot of parts of your brain are nervous. But you should be able to find a part of your brain that knows you can do it."