Last week was my mini me’s first day of first grade! As an educator I would declare first grade as the most important year for the young child. For it’s in first grade where children develop reading and writing skills. These skills are necessary for future academic success. Children come to first grade with an introduction to academics but it’s in first grade where these foundational skills are developed and refined and put into practice. First grade is where students either fall in love with learning or if they are struggling and don’t receive proper support, may begin to dislike school. Since first grade is so important it is imperative that dedicated teachers who understand the reading process and the development of the young child be assigned to teach it! It is a difficult grade to teach because at the beginning of the year some instruction looks like kindergarten but quickly shifts into more rigor and by the end of the year, looks like second grade! I often say a good first grade teacher could successfully teach all of the grades!
A Dedicated Teacher– My daughter’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Bernhardt, really took the time to get to know her students before school began. She did a personal Zoom with each child, sent out welcoming post cards, wrote an introduction on her blog, had parents fill out a survey and scheduled a one on one classroom visit for each family. She picked up on the fact that my daughter loves animals and unicorns and used that knowledge to build a relationship with her before school even started. But what impressed me the most, was her open invitation to chat over the phone and discuss questions and concerns. She called me one afternoon and we chatted for 45 minutes (yes, you read that right… 45 minutes!) We talked about my daughter’s needs and she took my concerns seriously; offering suggestions and brainstorming things she can do to support my daughter this year. I know we are going to have a fantastic school year because my daughter has a teacher who genuinely cares for her well being. My daughter has a teacher who will share and model the love of Jesus with her students, build a partnership with parents and go over and beyond to ensure that the students entrusted in her care have success not only in school but in life!
Busy Bees– Mrs. Bernhardt calls her students her busy bees and during open house she had them buzz around the room and collect the following items: a sweet treat, zoo stickers and a family devotional. What a wonderful way to get the children quickly acquainted with the classroom!
Sweet Dreams Poem– At open house Mrs. Bernhardt gave each student a copy of Sweet Dreams and instructed them to open it on the night before the first day of school. Inside was an original poem to help ease any anxieties they had about first grade. A bag of confetti was included and my daughter enjoyed putting the special confetti under her pillow at bedtime so she would have sweet dreams and be well rested for the big day! A few nights later I fell asleep while reading to my daughter in bed and my daughter said, “Momma, you must have some of the sweet dream confetti under your pillow!” Mrs. Bernhardt also shared a recording of herself reading the book, The Night Before First Grade. Click here to watch the video. I
The Kissing Hand- Before my daughter went off to school as a three year old preschooler, we read the Kissing Hand and my parents helped us make homemade kissing hand cookies that we shared with her teacher. Click Here to read all about it. We continued the tradition when she entered her second year of preschool and when she went off to kindergarten last year. This year my friend, who my daughter affectionately calls, Auntie Jaime, helped us bake and decorate kissing hand cookies. We added some crosses and hearts to remind our favorite teachers that Jesus loves them and that He is with them every minute of everyday!
It’s All About Reading– Some children will learn how to read no matter how we teach them. But the majority of children need to be taught the code to reading which includes some important parts (phonemic awareness, phonics with decoding strategies, word building, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension). As a reading consultant my biggest fear is that my daughter will not develop adequate reading strategies. So when my daughter’s teacher projected the image of Scarbough’s Reading Rope during parent orientation, I was ready to jump out of my chair in celebration! Now she was speaking my language and any worries I had about my daughter receiving solid reading instruction were put to rest. (I told my husband I would be happy to give him a PowerPoint presentation on then since or reading when we got home) And when Mrs. Bernhardt announced that reading with your child would be the only homework this year, it was clear that she is a teacher, who like me, understands the importance of reading. In fact, she said although they will do science and math, she could easily teach reading all day long!
A Back to School Message From the Noteworthy Mommy- May you and your family have a blessed 2021-2022 school year! Whether your child is going off to preschool, beginning middle school, high school or college, I pray they have a terrific year! For the families who home school, may your school year be filled with learning and fun. And for the children who are returning to face to face school after a year or more of virtual or hybrid learning, I’m sending you prayers for a safe and successful school year!