By Krista Kerr – Pōhutukawa Teacher
During this first fortnight back at kura we are reminded of the importance of routines and community. After a quiet first day when most/all tamariki were eager to be back at kura to see their friends and work with activities they hadn’t seen in a long time, we then come to days three, four, five. . . . when they realise this is a permanent thing and suddenly the preschool deck, in particular, can become a place of tearful farewells. No doubt across all sectors, there are some ākonga, though perhaps not tearful, who may be a bit anxious or hesitant about starting the year. As tamariki leave their whānau each morning, again the consistent routine of our akomanga (classroom) helps to make this easier. We see some tamariki a bit unsure and unhappy at having to separate from whānau, but observe as they then follow the same routine day after day (hanging up their bag, taking off their shoes, greeting their kaiārahi (teacher) and friends), that it gets easier; until the day arrives, when they happily walk into class, knowing what will be happening and feeling secure in that environment.
This is all the easier if there is a consistent routine at home also. A regular bedtime, wake time, leaving the house process and saying goodbye routine takes a bit of effort, but this does go a long way to helping your child settle into school.
The class community also plays a big part in helping tamariki settle in. There are many benefits of having a three-year age range in each akomanga, but seeing it in action as the older tamariki care for and support younger, newer tamariki is something that we, as teachers, are privileged to see time and time again. A child who is now happy and excited coming to class each day will often take a younger one under their wing, perhaps remembering back to when they were new; holding their hand as they walk around the class looking at the activities available, reading a story together, offering a hug for a crying child or suggestion of something to do – and many children will try again and again until they find just what it is that is needed.
Another factor that plays a big part in settling, is the behaviour modelled by the adults. If both kaiārahi and whānau are calm and happy during the goodbye routine (even if this is just a front for your child’s benefit), it shows your child that this is a safe place to be. It is harder to do when your child is upset, but even more important. Keeping calm and staying with the same routine shows your child that there is nothing to be anxious about. Feel free to ask any questions of your child’s teacher for your own piece of mind and know that just as the class community is there for your child, the whānau is there for you.
And the great thing is, that all tamariki do settle in! While all children are different, the tears and cries gradually fade away until they reach that magical day, where there are no tears, no shouting, no holding on, no protests – a day in which the child calmly walks happily into class, a day where the parent and teacher share a special smile!