Many friends and family members ask me what their kids should know, academically speaking, when starting school. They are under the illusion that their kids need to know the letters of the alphabet, how to count and how to write an essay (I may be exaggerating a little with this one). When I am asked this question I stress that kids don’t need to come to school with much knowledge. I believe that if a student is ready to start school, then they’ll learn.
And in fact, I think that there are actually a number of basic skills that are more important for kids to have a handle on before starting school – skills that are routinely expected by educators, but sometimes overlooked by parents.
Some of the skills educators would like to see children mastering before beginning school are:
- Going to the toilet by themselves.
And no, I do not just mean sit on the toilet by themselves, I mean (apologies for the blunt detail) do the deed in the toilet, clean themselves, pull their pants up and wash their hands. This is because, educators have all the time in the world to teach concepts, social skills, values and the like, however they just don’t have the resources to individually take students to the toilet. In saying this, sure, accidents happen and that is totally fine. Educators expect them and have no issue cleaning up after one (well, I wouldn’t say that they enjoy it, but accept that it’s part of the job).
- Packing and zipping up their school bags.
There’s nothing worse than belongings flying everywhere (in particular that spare pair of undies that’s been chucked in) all because it’s too tricky to zip up a bag. I’ve seen students become incredibly frustrated because they’re trying to shove a book into their bag sideways or zip up a bag that’s got a jumper arm caught in between the zipper’s edges. I know it may sound trivial but after a hard day’s work, this can be all too much for a little one. Also, it may sound rough, but helping students with this issue is low on an educator’s priority list at the end of the day. They are more focused on making sure that students have their jumpers on, that they all have any notes that’ve been handed out, and that no one is climbing up the walls or bashing their partner with their backpack (yes, this happens… all to often). Many tears can be saved if kids know how to pack and zip up their bags.
- Opening a packet.
At recess time, when kids are hungry, educators don’t want a line of 22 students waiting to have their chip packet opened. They would be starving. If kids can open packets themselves then they get to spend more time playing and less time waiting.
- Working and playing for periods without adult attention.
I know that we all want to give our children our undivided attention… “Oh, yes William, you are very clever. Keep chewing on that toy!”… Sorry, I was just talking to my son. Where was I… It is important for kids to be able to have a certain level of independence. Educators endeavour to give each student as much attention and assistance as possible, however cannot be there for every student in every moment.
- Putting their belongings away.
“Hello, I’m just looking for (child’s name) hat. Have you seen it?” I’ve been asked this question so many times and cringe at the thought that it may have gone missing. Also, I get embarrassed when parents sort through random jumpers that are sprawled all over the classroom floor. Educators know that they are not responsible for lost items but feel as though they let parents down when something goes missing (Waaaa!) If students can be responsible and put their belongings away then they’ll save time (and worries).
Credit to My Cute Graphics for the graphic.