Every year we have a Welcome Back breakfast. Parents come to the MPR and sit down with their kiddos and have breakfast. The kids get whatever the breakfast choice of the day was (since we are a free lunch site and the kids can get breakfast and lunch every day), parents get a banana, a pastry, and juice or coffee. We’re only in there for about a half hour, but the kids just love it. They chat and eat while teachers serve breakfast trays and snap pictures for the yearbook, then we quickly clear off the tables, the kids hug their parents, and then we get in line so the next grade level can come in.
It’s usually on the Friday of the first week of school. By then the kids have had a chance to get used to the routine and are pretty settled so there’s not a lot of emotional outbursts as we scoot back to class. Except this year, we started school on Thursday, so the breakfast was on the second day of school.
I’m walking around, snapping pictures, and the kids are all smiles. Ear to ear, mouths full of pancakes, big toothy grins. One girl in particular was especially thrilled to be having breakfast with her mom. As we start to clean up, I see a couple of kiddos getting a little misty-eyed. Parents are stroking their cheeks, wiping eyes dry with napkins, and saying they’ll be back after school to pick them up before shooing the kids off into line.
Except my Especially Thrilled Pup, who suddenly started to wail and cling to her mom.
Mom gets up and starts walking with the girl to the line. The admins start shooing my kids outside to line up on our spot because the second graders are waiting to come in and they need us to get out. Wailing Pup will not let go of her mom and get in line. They are outside with us now, the rest of my class is lined up and waiting, and a few are starting to whisper to each other about why she’s crying. I remind them of line rules: Hands by your side, Eyes forward, Voices off. They hop-to and I nod in approval before I turn my attention to Wailing Pup. Mom looks at me desperately and asks if I want her to walk back to the classroom with us. I smile and say that won’t be necessary and then lean down to Wailing Pup’s eye level.
Me, holding my hand up with my fingers out: Sweetheart, we are going to count down from 5. When we get to zero, it will be time to give Mom one last squeeze and then get in line.
Wailing Pup, still clinging to mom, shakes her head vigorously: Nooooooooooo…..
Me, not wavering: Five… Four… Count with me hon…
Wailing Pup wails louder. Mom starts counting with me.
Me: Three…. Two……….. One………………. Zero. Give mom one last hug.
I have not stood up. I am still holding eye contact with her. Wailing Pup hugs mom and then lets go. Mom steps to the side. Wailing Pup does not join the line.
Me: Great job, sweet. Now you have a choice – You may hold my hand and walk next to me back to class, or you may get in line with your friends. Show me your choice.
Wailing Pup takes my hand. I head to the front of the line. I praise my kiddos for being patient and waiting quietly. We walk back to the classroom. Wailing Pup utters a few whimpers but I do not acknowledge them. I walk with her in silence as the class follows behind us. We get to our line-up spot in front of the classroom and I plant her feet in the Line Leader Box. I tell her to wait right there while I check on the rest of the line. She lets my hand go and I move down the line, reminding or praising each kid as I go. We move on with our day and eventually she is all smiles again.
I had not noticed, during the exchange, that an admin was watching our class wait while I was calming this girl down. That four classes of second graders walked right past us and, aside from a few waves from kiddos with siblings in the other classes, my line was straight and quiet. She was so impressed with their patience that she came in at the end of the day to tell them about the exceptional job they had done. She even passed out bookmarks to thank them for being such good citizens.
Was it a flawless first week? No.
But do I feel good about the year?
**Title of post from Stop Crying Your Heart Out by Oasis