JEFFERSON — It was five years in the making, but the first day of school finally arrived Monday for Jefferson students.
Thousands of students poured through the doors of the four schools in the Jefferson City Schools System — there were 726 at Jefferson Elementary School alone, which teaches children in grades kindergarten through second.
For the kindergarten students at Jefferson Elementary, this wasn’t a day at the park. Oh no, there was counting, coloring and singing to be done. There were names to learn, new friends to meet and schedules to memorize.
With a day full of activities, its seems like a quick rest would be just what the doctor ordered — but the students quickly learned what turned out to be a shocking lesson for some.
"There are no naps in kindergarten, sweetheart," said Carol McDonald, a Jefferson Elementary kindergarten teacher, to a sea of surprised faces. "But if you feel like you just need a rest, you can put your head down at the table during centers."
"Centers," or center time, are periods throughout the day when students can take part in unstructured, independent learning, such as reading a book, putting a puzzle together or playing in the kitchen with their friends.
Besides learning school rules that stressed such important lessons as keeping hands and feet to oneself and using their inside voices, the students also had the opportunity to showcase their own.
"You don’t put people’s toys or books in your mouth," shared Caroline Kinsey, after McDonald reviewed the activities the students could do during center time
While reading a story about Chester the raccoon and his first-day-of-school jitters, McDonald got an earful from students who had their own theories about why the animal didn’t want to go to school.
"Maybe he was nervous and didn’t want to go because he didn’t know what to do at school," said Delaney Dalton with a shrug.
For Brenda Orr, McDonald’s para-professional, Monday was an extra special day. Not only was it the first day for her classroom of students, it was also the first day of kindergarten for her daughter.
"There weren’t any tears this morning — she was ready to go," said Orr. "She’s the youngest of four and has been waiting for this moment her whole life."
Each moment in McDonald’s classroom was a multi-tasking learning opportunity. Calendar time turned into lessons on counting, spelling, abbreviations and even ordinal numbers. A treasure hunt around the school turned into a meet and greet with school officials and also an opportunity for students to learn where they would need to go for art, music, physical education and Spanish.
Even a visit to the principal’s office was an opportunity for learning.
"I can see you all on my little monitor and if I see you running in the halls, it would make me very sad," said Principal Diane Oliver, reminding the students about the school rule about walking indoors.
Even though they received enough information on the first day to make any adult’s head spin, most students seemed to be taking it all in stride and weren’t ready to jump ship just yet.
"I was ready for kindergarten to start," said Jyesha Butts, one of McDonald’s students. "I like it so far. I can’t wait until tomorrow."
Jyesha wasn’t the only kindergartner who was excited about their first day of "big kid school."
"At first I didn’t think that I would like school, but it was fun," said Kathryn Faglier. "I have lots to tell my mom about."