Yesterday, as I scrolled through my friends Facebook feeds, I noticed an abundance of pre-school posts.
“Waiting in the car for pre-school drop-off!”
And then the posts a few minutes later…
“My daughter cried. I’m devastated!”
“They took my son when he started to melt down; I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye!”
The comments were supportive, people assuring their friends that their kids would have a great day, even if the morning was rough. A few hours later, my friends did post that their kids had a great day, and they were hoping for a better drop-off tomorrow.
When I taught 1st grade, especially in a state where kindergarten wasn’t required, I had many students whose first day with me was their first day without their parents. I would set up a colorful activity at their seat, meet them at the door, and encourage them to spend a few minutes with their parent before it was time for the parent to leave. Many kids made this adjustment well, but a few cried and clung to their parents, terrified of what would happen when their trusted caregiver walked out the door.
Almost every time, a few minutes after the parent left, the child would settle comfortably, and enjoy the rest of his day. But those few minutes of “Mommy! Don’t leave me!” were obviously heart wrenching for the parent. When I was teaching kindergarten, I didn’t have kids, so I didn’t understand how completely traumatic it was for the parent to let their child go as they dissolved in fear and tears at the classroom door.
Now, I get it. I haven’t yet had to do this, (my son is only two) but I know it is in our future. And hopefully my child will happily wave bye as he heads into his classroom. But somehow, knowing his personality, I doubt it.
But truthfully, most children are okay, and actually happy, after their initial fears are assuaged. They realize that the teacher is really nice, that there are many new toys, and that school actually isn’t as bad as they thought.
But here’s what I want to know from you. Many of my friends talked yesterday about how the teachers ended their farewell with their child before the parent and the child was ready. The teacher “pulled the child inside,” to quote one friend, or assured the parent the child would be fine and ushered the parent out the door.
As a teacher, I understand the professional point of view here. Don’t draw out the drama, make the good-byes quick, and get on with the day. But as a parent, I feel like if I allowed someone else to decide when my child was ready, he would feel betrayed by me if I left him while he was still unsure.
What do you think? Are the teachers right? Is it better to get the good-byes over with quickly? Or, should you comfort your child until he is ready to say good-bye for the day?