Dear Elanor…31.5 months…first day of Nursery 1

Dear Elanor

Let’s not fool ourselves…I’ve started to suck at the notion of a monthly letter.  But today was a big day for you, and I wanted to write you a letter to share it.

Today you started Nursery 1, which marks the end of our Mommy & Me style classes and the commencement of your formal (ish) schooling.  Here in Singapore, you go into Nursery 1 at 2 1/2, and then Nursery 2 the January of the year you’ll be 4 (ie, THIS January), Kindergarten 1 the Jan of the year you’ll be 5, and Kindergarten 2 the Jan of the year you’ll turn 6.  Effectively you are in the equivalent of an honest-t0-god Pre-School or Pre-K class back home in the states.

With this move to Nursery 1, you will attend school for a 2 1/2 hour block instead of a 2 hour block.  You’ll also attend 3 days a week instead of 2.  The biggest change, like I said, is that you’ll do it on your own.

The idea of this move has moved me to tears more than once.  I’m so very proud of the strong, independent little girl you are becoming.  But with each stab at independence, you also move a step further away from the baby girl I brought home 2 1/2 years ago.  You were my first baby (although, as you now know, you’re going to be a big sister in November), and you have been my teacher in this new world of motherhood.  I’m confident enough to think I can do this “mom” thing again because of you.  So while I’m bursting with pride, there’s the smallest bittersweet aftertaste.

As today was your first day, I had the option of staying in the class with you, but sitting off to the side.  As a former teacher (and as your mommy), I felt strongly that I wanted to know the curriculum and the flow of your day.

Your dad and I were nervous about today.  Would you be okay with me sitting off to the side?  Would you freak out if I left?  Would the other kids seem so much bigger?  Were you really ready to go up a level?

Watching another child melt down at the start of class when his mother left didn’t help my nerves, even though he calmed within a few minutes.  A second child’s mom stayed for a while and then slipped out, causing a prolonged bout of sobbing (and a call to mom to come back–twice).

You did not dismiss me with the callous carelessness that I showed my mom on the first day of school (family legend has it that I took in the room, turned to her, and said “You can go now” and left her to go play happily, while she uncertainly hovered by the door–it’s hereditary), but you happily joined the other children on the mat when we arrived.

You did not seem thrown by the change in teachers (although you did tell you teachers all about Teacher Joyce and Teacher Farrah), nor the slight changes in routine.  Certain things (like name tags) were not done, and there was more word-blending.

Your classmates were (overall) more boisterous than you.  Not that you were quiet or still–you probably have the most room to grow of the children I observed you with today when it comes to sitting in one place on the mat and not constantly changing your spot to see something more interesting.  You also need to not try to climb in teacher’s lap (although they found it very sweet).

You did a good job at participating–you were very engaged in the numbers (they say “I’m going to draw a 9” and then draw a different number, so that you children can tell them what number they drew and that they didn’t draw a 9…repeat several times), and were often on task, even if you don’t sing along to every song (even the ones I know you know, because you sing them at home incessently) or do every hand motion.

As I’ve watched you in school settings, several seemingly contradictory things strike me.  The first is that you feel very comfortable in the academic setting (not a surprise, given your parentage).  The second is that you take everything in and recall very well (you sing the songs at home, even when you don’t sing them in class).  The third is that you want to volunteer/help with everything any time there’s a chance to.  The final is that you are often quiet and seem perhaps not engaged (but then, like I said, you come home and it was clear you were taking it all in).  I’m very interested to see where this goes in terms of what sort of student you evolve into.

The biggest change from your last class that I saw was that there was definitely an increase in expectations (sitting still when told to, more word blending, pre-writing skills), and that rather than it being a stretch for you, you seemed to thrive.  Your knowledge level is definitely more on par with your classmates than in the last class (where is was VERY clear that you were the oldest/one of the oldest and had a far more advanced vocabulary and skill set than a large chunk of the class, who numbered among them children who were 18 months old as the youngest).

Unlike your two classmates who were struggling with the change, you didn’t devote much attention to me.  You came over for hugs a few times, but that seemed far more like a “because I was there” thing than that you missed me or needed me.  It has always been a goal of mine that you and I be close, but that you have the confidence and skills to be successful on your own as well…and you are succeeding.

After two hours of watching (and honestly, watching a class as a teacher is frustrating because you have no input, and without you to engage with–I tried to do it minimally) I went to you and asked your permission to leave, promising to come back at the end of class.  You said it was okay, so I did.  I stepped out to get a soda and to eat a little something while you finished exploring with doctor’s tools and had Mandarin (which is always a bit boring for me, as I’m not picking it up at ALL).  When I picked you up at the end of class they said there had been no tears, and that you’d done beautifully.  I think you’ll be ready to fly solo for your next day of school.

I am so very proud of you, little turtle.



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