Holding back the tears on the first day
If your child does cry going in, follow the lead of the teacher. Often children who come in the door crying are okay and laughing five minutes later.
Treat yourself to a cup of coffee and a little treat – this is a big day for you too.
Make sure to return for pick-up on time as children can fret when they see other children leave before them.
What the teachers say
Anxious parents hovering around in junior infant classrooms on the first day are clearly a nuisance to teachers and other pupils – never mind their own children.
“Drop and go,” is the advice to parents from one experienced teacher of junior infants, Grace English, from Scoil Oilibhéir in Ballyvolane, Co Cork.
“Go in cheerfully, say ‘this is fantastic, I am going to see you very soon.’ None of this standing around watching to see if they are going to cry.”
For some parents, she says, it is almost as if they are hoping their child will cry.
English points out that if there are 25 children in a class, there can be up to 50 parents there that first morning, along with the teacher and at least one other teacher helping out – all in one small room. “It is very overwhelming for them.”
Although she acknowledges that parents may feel emotional themselves, they should not make a big deal of the first day. And if you want to take photographs, do it at home.
“I find the more anxious the parent is, the more anxious the child is. The ones who are crying continually for a week or two weeks in the morning, it is because the parent is so anxious about it in front of them.”
“The quicker Mammy goes, the quicker the child will settle in,” agrees Aoife O’Riordan, who has been teaching junior infants in a Co Kildare school for the past five years. “Most parents, once they know the child is fine, will be fairly sensible and go.”
Her school, Scoil Mhuire Junior in Ballymany, Newbridge, staggers the “first day” over two days, so she will have only about 14 junior infants to deal with next Monday when the school reopens. The other half of the class will come in on Tuesday and she will have a full class for the first time on the third day.
Generally there is a “handful” of criers in each of the school’s four junior infant classrooms. There is the domino effect, she agrees, that if one child cries, another starts to cry without even knowing why.
O’Riordan admits that while she is looking forward to the new school year, she gets a little anxious herself coming up to the first day, wondering who she will have in her class.
“I love when we get to November and they all know what they’re doing – it is lovely to see the transformation in them.”
English, who will be teaching senior infants this year, is quite prepared to be a big disappointment for a day or two for last year’s junior infants when her school reopens this Friday.
“They do get a shock sometimes when they move into senior infants and realise they are changing teachers.”
It is quite normal for senior infants to say they don’t like their new teacher in comparison to their first teacher, who they probably worshipped.
“At least I know,” adds English. “I have seen it from the other side.”
'I expect her to be excited but quiet. I expect tears for myself'
Ever since four-year-old Ella Walshe got her uniform and school bag, she has wanted her mother, Sharon, to play school every evening when she gets home from work.
She has seen her classroom at St Paul’s in Greenhills, Dublin, and is very excited about it, says Walshe, who is taking time off to settle her only child into school, starting next Monday. Her husband, Ivan, a chef, would like to be there too on the first morning but he doesn’t know yet whether he can get the day off.
As it is not the nearest school to their home in Crumlin, Walshe was worried Ella would know nobody, but it turns out a girl from her playschool is also going there.
“I am delighted because I thought in a new environment where she knew nobody she would retreat into herself.”