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35 kids start school careers with awesome Brock Elliott instructor
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On their way to the cafeteria and their 11:15 lunch break, Mrs. Adrian Andrew’s students got some personal attention with hand sanitizer to make sure any germs were gone before they touched their food. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin
It was my first day of kindergarten Monday at Brock Elliott Elementary School along with 35 wide-eyed students in Mrs. Adrian Andrews’ classroom.

Kindergarten is super important. After all, it is where a student learns everything they need to know in life, as the saying goes.  It is the year that sets the stage for the future as classes become more difficult.  It was the year that I missed in school when first grade was the first to be offered.

Having experienced the children in my wife’s first grades time and again over some 20 years I never as much as entered kindergarten until Monday.  What an awesome teacher I witnessed as she followed a flawless lesson plan much of which I’m sure was in her head from her last 11 years of experience.

This classroom had bulletin boards that should win recognition especially with the time that was obviously required.  I have put up my share of first grade displays in my wife’s classroom, and I can appreciate how much time she had to put into the colorful presentations during the summer.

Those children learned so much in their first day’s class that was only interrupted by bathroom breaks, recess and lunch.  There was no monotony, but rather a continuing set of learning experiences on the five-and six-year-old levels.

Handling 35 youngsters on the opening day is no easy feat, but Mrs. Andrews had some help from her former student teacher Crystal Larsen who has landed a job in a charter school in Stockton.  While Andrews had 35 students Monday morning, Larsen is looking forward to a similar class of only 20 on her first day of school Sept. 7.   She said it was also a benefit to her to be at Brock Elliott Monday to witness how her master teacher opens her classroom and greets her children.

‘Today is the
first day of school’
It was not until 9:45 that I entered room 17 on Monday to observe the class and their teacher.  They were all sitting on the rug in their special squares when their teacher told them to all give themselves a hug – they immediately followed suit.

On a dry erase board was printed, “Today is the first day of school.”

As she started to explain the sentence one little girl interrupted with what was really more important to her, “When’s lunch?”

Knowing the calendar and the days of the week are basic, that served as good introduction to the daily class activities.  From their seats on the rug they sang the months of the year in unison in what was almost perfect harmony.

Several of the children were ready to tell stories of their own, but were told they had to wait until after recess time.  Learning a “days of the week” song was next and they responded to that like they had done it for days, if not weeks.

Mrs. Andrews continued to lead the children through the calendar mounted on the wall – day by day – until they reached Aug. 16 where she placed a cutout of a sunburst with the number 16.  Another chart is to be used to log the weather they experience each day.  Later they will see how many days of sun they had in school and how many with clouds and rain.

She promised that when they get to 100 days of class time in kindergarten shown on the calendar they would have a class celebration.

Those who remember kindergarten probably recall the interactive song, “Head and shoulders knees and toes,” where children actually touch those parts of their bodies while singing the song.  Most of the children were participating with one or two deciding to sit quietly or burying their head into their shirt.   Most of the class quickly adapted with only a few remaining shy to their new surroundings.

It was special to see the boys and girls line up by the door in perfect order to go out to recess.  They were told to stand with angel’s wings – hands held together behind their backs.  They did it in perfect order with hardly a peep out of them.  Amazing – hope it lasts for the teacher’s benefit.

35 students in class
with limit of 33
While she had 35 students on Monday the school has a limit of 33 in each of the two kindergarten classes.  There is also a kindergarten, first grade combination class where the overflow children may be sent.  If there are more than can be handled in that class, they may have to be sent to other schools in the district that have lower enrollment levels.

So those children with their “angel wings” walked out the door of the classroom where they lined up against the building.  Mrs. Andrews told them to stomp their feet on the concrete, demonstrating how hard the cement can feel and pointing out how they could get hurt if they run and fall on the hard surface.

She told of the difference between the concrete and the grass where they could romp and play and not have the danger of the hard surface.  Her warning of her students was timely as a student at another Manteca elementary school actually fell Monday morning and broke an arm.

While the kids were standing outside the classroom, another lesson involved the drinking fountain nearby.  Their teacher explained they should not put their mouths on the faucet, because they should not leave any germs behind for the next student getting a drink.

Recess was not a break for the teachers as they led the first year students through an introduction to the hopscotch squares and a painted trail of alphabet boxes.  The boys and girls called out the letters of the alphabet as they hopped through the squares.

The last half of the recess break took them to the jungle gym playground equipment where they were closely monitored to prevent anyone from getting hurt in what was a new experience for many of them.

Back in the classroom they all seemed to feel it was fun to play outside, but now that they were back in it was time to be quiet again – a lesson quickly learned.

“When you have a question you raise your hand because when everyone is talking we can’t hear,” Mrs. Andrews told her children.

Then there are
‘Mickey Mouse rules’
And then there were the “Mickey Mouse Rules,”  a new one on me but very attention getting for the boys and girls in her class.  

They used Donald Duck who tells the class to be kind to others like saying nice things.  And, Daisy Duck urged children to keep their hands to themselves – not to push friends, or to take a colored pencil away from a class mate who is using it.

Daisy Duck says to be quiet and use level three voices only outside.  Mrs. Andrews explained that her talking voice level is a 2 in the classroom.  “It’s important when we are in the classroom that we use our level 1 voice – a whisper,” she said.

Goofy says always be quite and Pluto urges children not to run in the classroom and always walk so they won’t run into a classmate or get hurt running into a table or chair.

It was after recess that the class was asked to sit at their tables and color the Mickey Mouse books with separate pages for the cartoon characters who had been used to show them the class rules.  As they worked their teacher made the rounds checking their coloring and taking a picture of each of them for year-end books showing their progress in the class that they would receive at school’s end in May.

The walk to the cafeteria with the teacher was another new experience as classes moved across the campus to the same building for their lunch break.  Neither of the two teachers had a break in the morning class and carefully led their students to their special table.  Those with lunches from home sat down and began to eat their sandwiches.  Others got in line and were helped by their teacher who guided them through the lunch line.

Without a doubt this class has that very special teacher who showed how deeply she cares for each and every one of them.