Remembering Kindergarten: The Best and The Worst Years of My LifeLisa Quinones-Fontanez
April 21, is Kindergarten Day – the celebratory birthday of Friedrich Froebe – the man who started the first kindergarten in 1837.
Kindergarten is a major milestone for children and their parents. The first day of kindergarten is one most don’t forget.
I remember my first day of kindergarten. My mother put me on the school bus. It was the first time I was separated from my mother.
I don’t remember crying. I don’t remember my mother crying. Maybe she did after the bus pulled away, though I very much doubt it. It was a different time then.
Besides, when my mother put me on the bus, she knew I’d come home and tell her every detail of my day.
I loved kindergarten. I still remember my teacher’s name: Ms. Kaplan. I loved the bus. Driving through different neighborhoods, singing songs, laughing with friends.
It was one of the happiest school years of my life.
That was a long, long, long time ago.
I will never forget my son, Norrin’s, first day of kindergarten. Waiting in the rain for the school bus that never came. Holding Norrin’s hand as his other hand flapped with anxiety.
I will never forget dropping him off, handing him over to his teacher, worrying how Norrin’s first day of school would be. I wanted to cry but I knew if did, Norrin would cry too. I couldn’t let him see me cry.
I will never forget picking him up from his first day of kindergarten and his teacher saying, “I don’t think I can teach him.”
I wish I could say, Norrin’s kindergarten year got better but it didn’t. In a class of six children, Norrin was never student of the month. Norrin cried every morning before putting him on the bus. At the end of the school day, Norrin didn’t have the ability to tell me about his day. His teacher couldn’t be bothered to fill in the blanks or answer my questions. And when I picked up Norrin’s report card on his last day of school, it wasn’t easy reading he failed kindergarten.
It just wasn’t the right fit for Norrin. The school couldn’t meet his needs. And Norrin’s kindergarten teacher wasn’t willing to understand his autism.
It was one of the worst years of my life. It was probably one of Norrin’s too.
It’s been more than 30 years since I’ve been in kindergarten and I still remember my teacher’s name and what she looked like. Norrin still recalls his kindergarten teachers name but I hope one day he’ll forget.
I am grateful that Norrin is no longer at that school – even though I had to threaten to sue (again) to get him out. Norrin will never have to see his kindergarten teacher again. Norrin no longer cries when he’s put on the bus.
Norrin is now happy; he’s in a new school, in an ungraded class. He’s in a place where his teachers see his true potential and understand his specific needs.
Norrin’s no longer in kindergarten but he’s finally in a place worth remembering.
Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.