An Open Letter to Kindergarten Teachers at the Start of School

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Dear teacher,

I don’t know you, at least not yet, but today you become one of the most important people in my life. Why? Because you are my child’s first teacher — her Kindergarten teacher — and I am entrusting you with her education, happiness and health.

Of course, I know that’s not fair. You went to college to be an educator, not a counselor, entertainer or part-time parent, but it takes a certain type of person to teach young children (and their parents) and you are “the one.” 

You hold hands and dry eyes. You open milk cartons and close wounds — or, at the very least, wipe and bandage them up. And you tie shoes between lessons. You brush and braid hair.

You also teach children (mine, and 20 others) to work together and independently. You help them understand their emotions and give them the skills they need to deal with confrontation. And that makes you special. You are significant, unique, and extraordinary.

That said, I’d be lying if I said my daughter’s first day was easy. As I slung an oversized Moana backpack over her little, 5-year-old shoulders, I was apprehensive. She was short — so short — fragile, and small, and I worried she was not ready mainly because I was not ready. I was terrified what this new chapter would bring. As I gripped her little hand, I wondered where the time had gone. Just yesterday her fingers struggled to hold my thumb, but this year, they would hold pencils, crayons and markers with ease. And as I watched her wave goodbye, I was scared, but you know this already. You welcomed (and continually welcome) each and every parent with a smile on your face.

Your voice is reassuring as you remind us: Our kids will return. In just a few hours, they’ll have stories to tell. And you treat each parent with understanding and compassion. 

You bend down to meet your students, asking their name while sharing your own, and you do so with patience. While some children are enthusiastic, others are afraid and shy. On the first day of school, many little ones cry. But you listen. You meet them where they are and take things slow.

So thank you, for carrying tissues and wiping snot. For being flexible, firm, patient and persistent. You are a referee without a whistle. A CEO without a board. 

Thank you for holding both my child’s hand and mine. This transition is tough, and as parents, it’s easy to feel like our hearts are torn. Today, I am both empty and full.

Thank you for giving our children a solid foundation: for teaching them to count, read, solve simple math problems and write. Thank you for celebrating their quirks and embracing individuality. For having crazy hat day, crazy hair day, and letting our littles wear Halloween costumes.

And thank you for doing so lovingly, selflessly and without recognition. You perform mini miracles, and I don’t know how you do it.

Make no mistake: Plenty of teachers deserve praise. My own life has been shaped (and saved) by educators. But today I want to acknowledge you, Kindergarten teacher, because the mark you leave on these little lives is indelible. 

So thank you, for the sleep you’ve lost and money you’ve spent readying your classroom and preparing it for this very special day. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made (and will continue to make) and for the lessons you’ve prepared. And thank you for caring for my child like your own. Today may be overwhelming, but it is a better day because you’re in it. 

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