What do “older” elementary school students think kindergartners fear the most about starting elementary school? Seven students who are now “upperclassmen” in Palo Alto elementary schools – in third grade or beyond – chat with a Partners in Education (PiE) writer about how they would counsel themselves during their first days as kindergartners. It turns out they remember feeling nervous and fearful about the “big kids” and whether they would ever be invited to play during recess. Those fears are long gone, replaced by a feeling of belonging and prospering in their school environments.
Fourth graders Lorenzo and Connor met in 2nd grade at Fairmeadow Elementary School and became fast friends. The very first thing they mention is how really, really good the teachers are. “All the teachers are really nice and you should take their advice. They know what they’re talking about and they know how to help you. If you have a question – if you don’t understand something – ask them,” advises Lorenzo.
Conner chimes in: “Don’t be afraid to have fun in the classroom, but that doesn’t mean that in the middle of a math test you should start jumping around.” He then thinks back to his five-year old self – not yet knowing he would develop into such a musical kid – and how the music program at Fairmeadow, sponsored in part by donations to PiE, has inspired that gift and ushered it along. “Take advantage of the music program here. Yes, it helped me with the recorder at school, but it also helps me be better with the instruments I play at home: the drums, piano and guitar.”
Socially, both boys advise that kids get over their fear and just go out and make friends. “Try to have fun and join in some games like tag or rounders or whatever you like to play,” says Lorenzo. Conner agrees: “If you want to play with the older kids, just hop in and ask ‘can I play?’ I remember last year’s fifth graders when I was in 3rd grade; I was always scared to ask them to play. But they made room for me.”
Lorenzo then adds rather wistfully, “It’s fun to come to school and just have fun with your friends. I look forward to that every day and I wish I had longer here.”
Over at Hoover Elementary School, Rishi and Kenji, twin boys in the third grade, remember starting kindergarten together, then deciding they wanted their “own” experience and requesting separate classrooms. Rishi and Kenji agree that Hoover’s teachers make the school. They specifically call out Peter Lee in second grade and “Miss K,” PiE-funded art teacher Joyce Knezevich, as having made a mark on them. And they are quick to advise younger kids to take advantage of the Hoover faculty. “Do what the teacher says. And don’t be shy. Try and make friends by talking to people. You may be nervous at first, wondering if people might be mean to you.”
Yet when asked if that turned out to be true, the twins answer in unison: “No!” They tell their younger selves to get ready to love the outdoors and PE, to be proud of future art projects – such as the “glue drawing” Kenji just completed – and to realize that kids who are strangers today may turn out to be your very best friends tomorrow. “Go talk to them!”
At El Carmelo, three girls who are part of the school’s Leadership Club gave this advice to incoming Kindergartners:
“I would say, don’t be shy. Be nice, try to play with people who seem nice, and ask an adult for help if you are having a hard time.”
“Don’t be shy and try to make lots of friends. Speak up and share your ideas with other people.”
“If I was giving advice to a kid who was just starting at El Carmelo, I would say that you should try to make some nice friends and not be shy to speak up about your ideas. You should also try to do your very best in class, always listen to the teacher, and ask for help if you need it. Be nice to all the other kids and help them, too. If you do all of these things, you will have a great time at El Carmelo.”