An ode to St. Andrews elementary

Lana Payne
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Last week, our daughter finished her first year of school.

Kindergarten that year working parents and moms not ready to let go dread like a migraine headache. I fell into both categories.

Like most, we managed, or as parents with older children have said to me: you will survive. And of course we did with a lot of help from my sister-in-law, Courtney.

It was not all smooth sailing. The logistics for most days were figured out the evening before. But sometimes no matter how much planning, things went wrong. Like the time I lost track of time (a conference call that got interesting) and before I knew it, I was 15 minutes late picking up my daughter and I hadnt driven across town yet.

Lucky for us, little seems to bother our just-turned six-year-old. She knew I would get there eventually telling the principal that Mommy was probably in a meeting. So, for half an hour, she kept the principal, Mrs. Connelly, company, while I panicked, ran two yellow lights and then berated myself for days.

Guilt another emotion that seems to go hand-in-hand with parenthood.

The Kindergarten year was only made possible because of the incredible and amazing early childhood educators at Kates child care centre at the College of the North Atlantic where high-quality child care and early learning is not a goal, but an everyday practice. Someday, these women will be treated with the respect and the pay they deserve because decision-makers will finally reach the same conclusion as most enlightened folks that this is a necessary and critical component to building a civil society, to womens economic equality, to supporting the labour market and for the development of our children.

Someday, this work will no longer be viewed as just glorified babysitting, but what it really is or should be the early childhood education and care of our youngest citizens.

Transportation. Pick-up. Drop-off. Eight minutes with green lights. Eleven minutes otherwise. Schedules you know what I mean. The refrigerator hasnt been white since early September. Its cluttered with calendars, notices, reminders, magnets, art and photographs. At least half the kitchen table had been taken over by books, list words, homework booklets, crayons, pencils and erasers.

Our daughter attends St. Andrews elementary, a small neighbourhood school next to the university. But St. Andrews is more than a school. It is a community. And you know it right away. You can feel it. This is, in large part, due to the excellent staff, educators, administrators and parent volunteers, including those on the school council. They work hard to make St. Andrews inclusive, welcoming.

For these people, St. Andrews is not just a place they work or volunteer. Some might call it school spirit, but I believe it is more than that.

There is a sense of being embraced. Last week, for example, all of us teachers, parents, students shared breakfast. There is a very deliberate effort to reach out to parents, grandparents, families to show us that this is not just a place where our children go to learn their curriculum. It is also a place where we learn from each other, where friendships are fostered, where events are planned to celebrate our children and the community that is St. Andrews. It is a place of hope.

Its probably one of our citys most diverse schools, English is the second language for 20 per cent of the children. Kates first year of school has been enriched because she has had the opportunity to make friends with children from different cultures, countries and ethic backgrounds.

It truly is a beautiful thing to watch children from around the globe, learning together, playing together, laughing together. It gives you hope that maybe we can build a better world; that maybe racism can be eliminated if only we can learn together, laugh together, work out our differences as small children do sometimes facilitated by a soft-spoken Kindergarten teacher.

Last week, during a school assembly, my daughter noticed that her teacher cried. Later that evening, Kate informed me that this was because she was proud of us, Mom.

There was little doubt. Mrs. Susan Jackman was proud of them.

She is, after all, one of those teachers. Big-heart, soft-spoken, but firm the teacher that you remember because she touched your child; had an impact.

World leaders, decision-makers at all levels, really ought to visit a few Kindergarten classrooms perhaps they might visit Mrs. Jackmans class. Because there is much to be learned in Kindergarten life lessons that are often forgotten or that go unapplied.

Best-selling author Robert Fulgham perhaps said it best: All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.

Some of the things on Fulghams list: share everything, play fair, dont hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, dont take things that arent yours, say youre sorry when you hurt somebody, live a balanced life and when you go out in the world watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

The challenge is getting adults to understand that lessons learned as a child dont end with childhood. And that it really does take a village, a community, to raise a child.

Lana Payne is a former journalist who is active in the labour movement. Her column returns July 15.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic

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