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First Day of School Survival Kits

"As all teachers do, I gather my ideas from bits and pieces of what I experience myself and what I get from others," Kimberly Nelson told Education World. "On my first day of teaching, I received a survival kit from our PTA president. It contained little items, each with its own meaning, that somehow related to surviving the first year as a brand new teacher. I found that gesture very meaningful and sweet, so I decided I would make a similar survival kit for my students."

Students are greeted with a survival kit as they enter their new classroom.

Nelson, who has taught kindergarten for four years, in Florida and Georgia, places the survival kits at her students' desks on back-to-school night. The kits contain a Starburst, a penny, a sticker, Smarties, an eraser, a Hershey Hug, and a Lifesaver. Each item has a special significance, which is described on a page attached to the bag. With lines like "Starburst: You will be a shining star in school if you smile and always do your best," the paper identifies each item and its meaning.

Through the years, Nelson has updated the items in the kit. An eraser for "mistakes" replaced the bandage in an earlier version, and the sticker that now represents "sticking together"once was a paper clip representing "staying together."

"Parents who open the bag with their children and read the contents out loud are usually thankful and have a look of relief," observed Nelson. "The kit shows sincerity and gentleness, which reflects on the teacher, and I think most parents hope for that in their child's first teacher. The children's favorite part usually is the candy, although I have had some squeals of excitement over the penny!"

On one memorable meet-the-teacher evening, Nelson encountered a mother who had brought her four daughters, one of whom was starting kindergarten. A clerical error led them to her class, which was full, and when that was brought to light, the entire family broke down in tears. Nelson calmed the girls with a survival kit and chatted with their mother, who shared that her husband had recently died. While Nelson listened and reassured their mother that her kindergartner would be well taken care of, the children were distracted from their tears by reading the kit and enjoying the candy. In that case, it really was a survival kit!

"As a kindergarten teacher, I think it is important to talk to the children as much as to the parents on a first visit," Nelson added. "At back-to-school night, most of my time is spent talking and explaining to parents about procedures and expectations, but it is equally important to kneel down and show interest in the little one hugging daddy's knee. The more I talk to my students before the big first day, the more comfortable they are when that day comes."

This year, for the first time, Nelson will be teaching second grade as a first and second grade looping teacher at Evergreen Community Charter School in Asheville, North Carolina, so she is currently adapting the survival kit to suit her older students.

Photo provided by Kimberly Nelson.

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected].

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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