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“My Teacher Made me Draw a Nose!” And Other Tales of Starting School

on Wed, 07/30/2014 - 16:47

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By: Susan Friedman

A number of years ago my son got off the bus after his first day of kindergarten and told me he didn't want to go back to school if he had to draw a nose.  He was pretty upset about it. I had wondered if he'd get on the right bus, find a friend at recess, or be able to open his lunch - but this had never occured to me - that he'd be upset over drawing a nose. It took me a while to figure out what he was talking about but finally I pieced it together.

His teacher had asked the children to draw self-portraits and my son drew a picture of himself without a nose. His teacher encouraged him to add one - strongly encouraged. She even helped him get the nose started. He just as strongly didn't want to draw a nose.

I didn't know exactly why he didn't want to draw a nose since he had drawn plenty of them before on a myriad of stick figures - but I did know this - he liked to ease into new situations.

I called his teacher and told her how upset he was. It was her first year as a teacher and she was genuinely surprised to learn he was upset. "Does he not know how to draw a nose?  I just wanted to show him it wasn’t hard to do." 

I shared with her that my son had made many drawings with noses before. I suggested that his stand on noses might be less about drawing and more about feeling comfortable. I told her that he was sometimes hesitant to join in fully when in a new situation, but he did tend to participate enthusiastically when he felt comfortable, which usually happened pretty quickly.

His teacher shared that she really had thought it was about ability and confidence drawing and hadn’t considered that taking a stance on drawing a nose was a way to keep control and feel comfortable on a first day of school when so much was new.

It was a productive conversation. I thanked his teacher and told my son he didn't have to draw a nose. He was relieved and went to school the next day with no apparent worries - at least none about noses.

I remember thinking "uh oh...a new teacher who wanted to make my son draw a nose... this is going to be a tough year". But it turned out that kindergarten was a great year for my son and we both really liked his teacher.  Sometimes a tough first day simply means a conversation that leads into a great year of learning.

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When my son started kindergarten, he had been at a daycare and was the oldest of the children by a couple years.  He hadn't gone to any preschool or Head Start and this was his first experience in a classroom.  We got a note home after his first day stating that he had visited the Responsible Thinking Center (I had no clue was THAT was) and the note went on to say that he wasn't listening to the teacher and wouldn't leave other children alone so he had to go to the RTC room and make a plan about what he needed to do to change his behavior.  I was devastated.  I am an Early Childhood Educator and I can't even manage my own child.   I thought to myself, "I'm going to have one of THOSE kids... the one teachers warn each other about and he already has a reputation".  My husband and I talked to our son and reminded him to listen to the teacher and to keep arms and legs to himself.  After being in Kindergarten for about a month, and having been in the Responsible Thinking Center 4 or 5 times, I talked with the teacher.  We came up with some strategies for working with my son and keeping him in the classroom instead of sending him out to another room.  After that first month or so, he never had to go to the RTC room again.  In hindsight, his teacher and I believe that my son had never experienced a classroom full of kids his age and didn't really know what to do.  I wish I had better prepared him for his school experience but, he is now a 5th grader and is doing well in school. 

Really cute story. It also serves as a reminder that reaching out to the teacher and communicating about when your child is upset can be very important. Parents and teachers working together in respectful ways. I can imagine an equally funny story coming from this teacher - of all the things I thought I had to prepare for on the first day I didn't imagine it would be a kid who expressed his nervousness about school by not wanting to draw a nose. We're all learners. Teachers, children, and parents. Thanks.

What a great way to reframe the first day of school with a productive conversation. On a busy day with a classroom full of children we forget to sit back and consider what might be going on for the child. Why was the nose an issue for your son? I can only imagine - but you did the right thing by taking the time to contact the teacher and talk it through. I'm glad that he had a great kindergarten experience.

I tell my parents at Orientation that the first day at school for their child is like a first day on a new job.  We may have most of the skills in tact but getting t know everyone and get the work (or play) to a level you feel comfortable doesn't usually happen on the first day at school.  I agree especially if your child has not been in a preschool setting with other children around his age.   Preschool equals Prepared and pleas notice I say Preschool! Thank You as a parent coming from a Preschool Teacher