September is a transition month here in Beijing, one which we leave the hot days of summer behind and slowly but surely welcome the cooler fall temperatures and the colorful, changing leaves. September is a time of transition for students too, who are getting back into the swing of a new academic year. For some the transition is seamless, but for the little ones just starting off, starting school can be exciting and scary. In this series we will talk with moms about their sons and daughters’ first weeks of school. To kick off this series, we speak to BIBA mom and Grade 5 teacher, Melissa Burnell (US), who shares her son Elijah’s story as a first time student.
How did you prepare Elijah for the first day?
Because we were moving to a new country, we started by buying a couple of children’s books on China to begin exposing him to the different sights and experiences he would have. We talked about the new friends he would make and emphasized that he would be learning many new things because he is such a curious little guy. We did talk a little bit about how half of his day would be in Chinese and that it would be challenging for a while, but included that we would all be in it together to learn and adjust. And of course, picking out a cool backpack, lunch box, and school supplies helped to build up the initial excitement.
Who had a harder time saying goodbye?
Definitely Elijah! For me as a teacher at BIBA, I have been looking forward to seeing my son around school during the day which is a change from not seeing him at all until I got out of work in the early evening. My husband has been a stay-at-home dad for four years, so watching Elijah take this next step is great. It will be even better once Elijah doesn’t cry every day. It can be heartbreaking!
How have the first few weeks gone?
He had never been to school a day in his life, so we were anticipating this to be a big event. We attempted to prepare him for all of this months in advance by talking about what the day would be like and getting him pumped up for all of the exciting things he would be doing in school. However, even with all of our efforts, Elijah has been having a very difficult time with this transition into school. Every day has resulted in tears and fits regardless of the tactics we have tried. After talking with several teachers and parents, we are coming to accept that it is going to take time for Elijah to be comfortable going to school every day.
Can you offer any advice to other parents?
When the going gets tough with getting your little one to school, I think the most important thing to do is to keep positive and remember that tomorrow is a new day. It may take time, but this too shall pass. Focus on all of the good things going on in school and talk about them at home. Share your excitement about school and this important milestone with them. And finally, try to enjoy it all yourself because the time will fly!
Photo: Courtesy of BISS