TAMPA — When kids spent their first day as kindergartners at Lowry Elementary last week, they were greeted by lots of hugs, lots of tears, and Jitter Glitter.
Jan Segal has been teaching kindergarten for 14 years. Maria Molinaro is the rookie — she’s only been doing it for 13 years.
They know the fears and the tears of parents and kids on that first day of kindergarten when they leave their day cares and their homes to join the big kids in elementary school. It can be a traumatic time for the kids, and just as traumatic for the parents.
So the kindergarten teachers at Lowry, 11505 Country Hollow Drive, issue tubes of Jitter Glitter that the kids are encouraged to sprinkle on their heads on that first day. It might as well be pixie dust. The teachers use the Jitter Glitter as well. It’s a way to help the kids feel comfortable and confident on that first day and the first week when they are growing up in a whole new world.
“The most important thing when they are getting off the bus or walking, or being dropped off during the first week is to smile,” Molinaro said. “Smiles are universal. We make them feel like they are a part of a family.”
Lowry goes out of its way to make things comfortable and happy for the new kids. There was a gingerbread man who walked around the classes on the first day. There was a Meet the Teacher night so the newbies would be able to find their classrooms, meet the teachers, and even find the bathrooms. The first week for kindergartners might be a difficult transition, but Segal said there are ways to make it easier.
The kids are given “apples” that they can attach pictures of their families to. Parents are allowed to monitor their kids through windows at Lowry, but more often than not, the kids just make funny faces right back. After all, they are in kindergarten now — they aren’t babies anymore.
“We always remember that they are all children,” Segal said. “If you can’t connect with the kids or their parents, you have no business being here.”
Lowry also takes care of its parents when school starts. The school started a “Boo-Hoo” buffet for parents who drop off their children for the first day. Parents can peek through the windows of the classroom and then head on up to a breakfast buffet to let it all out.
“We try not to have too many tearful goodbyes,” Molinaro said. “It just kind of happens. The kids make friends pretty quickly and we get to know them and what they are all about. After the first week, it kind of turns to normal. After the Christmas break, the kids are like new. They are used to it and they are different. It’s like they grow up on Christmas break and they’ve grown up.”