They don't drive, they don't have a job and they don't have a cell phone. They sometimes cannot tie their own shoes or zip up their own coat. Many are missing teeth and more than a few seem to have a difficult time sitting still. If you guessed that they are kindergarteners, you would be right.
All around Essex County the class of 2022 has just or soon will experience their first day of school. They have initiated the fall ritual of school shopping which often includes a brand new backpack. Their new shoes may still not fit just right as they have not had enough time to stretch out yet. Many have stood with a parent or parents for the first time waiting for the big, yellow school bus. As they catch a last glance of mom out the school bus window, they wonder why mom is smiling and waving while she wipes away a tear. The bus is noisy, they bounce on the seat and they cannot see over the top of the seats nor do their feet touch the floor. They sit at the front of the bus and near the bus driver. It just feels safer. The older kids sit near the back and seem like giants as they walk by.
While school is exciting and interesting to them, it can also be a little scary sometimes. They don't mind standing close to each other. Having a buddy and holding each other's hand is OK. They like doing everything in groups and don't mind sharing their stuff. They don't hide their enthusiasm and are almost always smiling or laughing. They seem to know that they are beautiful, wonderful and perfect just as they are right now in this moment.
Some are a little home sick the first couple of days but luckily, kindergarten teachers are imbued with a caring magic that makes you feel good inside. They help you find your seat and your cubby so that you can put your stuff away. They help you with lunch and your snack. Sometimes they get down on one knee so they can look you in the eye to let you know that everything is alright. They show us how helping each other and looking out for each other is really the best way to help ourselves and our classmates. They always make sure that everyone is included and everyone gets a turn. They also make sure that everyone is always safe.
I can clearly remember my daughter's first day of school and the mixed feelings that my wife and I acknowledged as our daughter reached this milestone. During her first year of school she shared with me much of what I have just shared with you. Mrs. Higgins was her teacher and she was a fantastic teacher in every way that is important. As a teacher she taught many important things upon which an entire education was built, As a person, she taught lessons that were even more important. I guess it is true that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten.
Good luck, class of 2022 and thank you to all the Mrs. Higgins out there that will welcome you to your first day of school. Remember, all kids count.
Scot Hurlburt can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org