Picture this: you're at an important business dinner, you've just been introduced to someone high on the corporate ladder, and you have completely forgotten their name! Or, maybe you've just had the most incredible conversation with a business owner who wants to sell your wares, and you can't remember their name to ask for them when you call to set up an appointment at their store. Or, your husband introduces you to his best football watching buddy and you honestly can't remember ever hearing about them before!
Alright, now, picture this: you're a tiny person, maybe about 3-4 years old, and you're walking into a new building with your mom or dad. They've been telling you for weeks now that "You're a big boy/girl!" and, they "just know you're going to do great!" They've been talking about you going to this place called Pre-school in front of you to all their friends, and to be honest, you don't know how to feel about this. They say they're going to drop you off and then pick you up... sometimes this seems okay, and other times you just think to yourself, I don't think she/he'll really do that... now the moment of truth has arrived. What's next? What will "it" really be like? Will you really be "great" at "it?!"
For a parent, those first few days of preschool have a lot of mixed feelings wrapped up in the reality of learning when to leave the house on time (or, how late is late). We tend to think about the cost of tuition, and making time to volunteer in the classroom, or finally talking to the mom of same aged children you've been sitting across Storytime at the library from for the last year... and yes, we think about how great our kids will be as Preschoolers, because, well, to think otherwise would seem unsupportive.
Once in the classroom, most children find themselves too excited to be afraid anymore. Look over there- a ladder to climb! And wowee! A fully stocked play kitchen! And art supplies just sitting out! There is a lot to see and do in each of our KP Cooperative Preschool classrooms. And a lot of new friends to play alongside, too! And, you say they can go back again and again for the WHOLE YEAR?! Yeah, this is a win-win situation.
Not all kids feel that excitement though. Some of them feel outright fear- will the teacher talk to me? Will other kids like me? How about if I feel like crying, who helps me then? And, will my mom/dad really be coming back? Teacher Kim and Teacher Mary have years of experience with helping our more anxious students adjust with the rest of the class (and reminding parents that, they'll be fine as soon as you leave).
In the first few weeks and months of preschool, we focus a lot on Learning our Friend's Names. We sing songs that introduce ourselves, and advance into songs that allow us the opportunity to introduce the friend sitting next to us- hey! When we line up at the door, we choose and name a friend to line up behind us. Out on the playground, we're encouraged to, Go! Find a friend and Play! Back in the classroom, we're reminded, let's share with all of our friends. That, to be kind to our friends is to be kind to ourselves.
Why do we spend such a long time focused on this idea of our peers being our friends? Friends with names that should be used- shouldn't, "hey, you there!" suffice? Well, for most kids, chances are pretty high that these first relationships will be with them for the length of their stay in the school district where you live. That first core group of kids playing together on the preschool-sized toys outside may very well be the same gaggle of grinning teenagers posing before a middle school homecoming dance- or high school graduation. And yes, each of those children has a name they've likely used since they were in Preschol. And your child may have been amongst the first to call out, Mom/Dad, look! There's my friend, ___________!
We spend a lot of time learning each other's names because, learning names can be difficult! Even as adults, we realize the truth in this. So, learning to identify features, or characteristics about the people who are around us, and to call them by name, it's important stuff. There is a certain feeling we get when our name is being used to address us- immediately, we give more of our attention to the user. We retain more of the information being directed our way, and we in turn, share more, if we've been asked by name to do so.
We spend a lot of time learning that our peers are our friends because, we are all in this together. No matter if your schoolmate has the right backpack, a funny way of talking, or an entirely different offerring of food in their snack pack, we are all here to learn and grow, and to cooperatively work towards those pursuits, in this place called school.
So, the next time your little one points out one of their besties on the way in the building or after school, take a moment longer than the usual, "Oh, that's nice, dear," and go over an introduce yourself. Who knows, the next time you arrive, it just might be you smiling because your new "friend" said your name.