Staff Photo: John Bohn Colby McClendon, 4, right, follows his sister Jenna to a classroom for his first day of kindergarten at Cooper Elementary School in Loganville on Monday morning. Jenna, now a thrid-grade student, had the same kindergarten teacher, Lisa Baker, as her brother now has as his kindergarten teacher.
VIDEO: Colby's first day of kindergarten
Documenting the day of a kindergarten student.
Editor’s Note: The Daily Post spent time with a Gwinnett County Public Schools student and his family on Monday. The following is a story that chronicles a morning in the life of one child among nearly 163,000 in GCPS on the first day of school.
LOGANVILLE — It’s 7:15 a.m. in suburban Gwinnett County, and Katie and Collin McClendon sit across from each other sipping coffee.
Dim lamp light illuminates the den, casting soft shadows on the rough surface of a stonework fireplace. Beside it: a wicker basket full of glossy magazines and a toy workbench with a set of multicolored, plastic tools.
Collin stares into the blank, gray reflection of the television set. A cabinet beneath the flat-screen TV holds neatly-arranged columns of Disney DVDs, stacked 10 high. A tiny red light glows on the cable box.
Katie clears her throat.
“They never sleep this late,” she says. “It must be the rain. I never like to get up on rainy Mondays either.”
Muffled thumps from above.
Collin’s head turns, following the path of an 8-year-old girl stumbling down the stairs, sleep still in her eyes as she falls into her mother’s arms. Behind her, a bright-faced, 4-year-old boy with blond hair descends the steps, stopping halfway down to peer between the wooden beams of the banister.
Today is Colby’s first day of kindergarten. Like nearly 163,000 other students Monday morning, the McClendon children awakened for the inaugural day of Gwinnett County Public Schools 2012-13 academic year, ending summer vacation. For he and fellow kindergartners (Class of 2025), it’s the start of something entirely new.
While big sister, Jenna, turns on the TV, flipping it to a morning cartoon, Colby plops down in a bean bag chair. She sits down next to him. The two stare quietly at the plasma screen, watching flickering, flashing images of animation.
From the kitchen, mom asks if he wants a Nutrigrain bar or Gogurt with his cup of milk for breakfast. And does he want Chex Mix or Cheez-its for a mid-day snack? She places the snack bags in a brown paper sack with Colby’s name and “Peanut Allergy” written in black magic marker.
The kids file into the kitchen and sit down at the table. Colby gnaws at the Nutrigrain bar, while Jenna tears open a packet of Gogurt. Dad stands above them, watching Colby devour his food.
“If everything goes good today, somebody’s getting ice cream,” Dad says.
Mouths full, both look at their father, eyes wide. Colby fist pumps.
They finish breakfast and follow Collin back upstairs to brush their teeth. Mom hangs back for a moment, unzipping their backpacks, placing their lunch, snacks, pens and pencils in the bags.
She smiles, shaking her head. “I’m hoping for a quick goodbye when we drop them off,” Katie says. “If I linger on it too long, I’ll start crying. I know I will.”
When the McClendons pull up in their white Denali at Cooper Elementary, brother and sister are giggling in the backseat, sharing a joke.
“OK, you guys ready?” Dad says.
The children open the doors, greeted by a teacher who welcomes them with a smile.
“Bye, Mom. Bye Dad.”
Sister leads little brother through the big double doors. She’s been a student at Cooper Elementary going on four years now, and she’s volunteered to walk Colby to his kindergarten teacher’s class.
He steps, big-eyed, through the brightly lit hallways, the soles of his brand-new sneakers squeaking against the floor. They approach an open classroom door with a red banner above it that reads “Mrs. Baker.”
Colby stops, gives a brief nod to his sister and steps through the threshold.
Veteran Kindergarten Teacher Lisa Baker greets him with a smile as he enters the classroom. She gives him a white piece of paper with a coloring assignment on it and directs him toward “the red table,” where a glossy sticker with his name adorns a space on the table top’s wooden grain. He plops down in his chair and reaches for a box of crayons.
The first assignment is to color a paper hat however they like, cut it out with child safety scissors, tie a piece of yarn around it and adjust it so it fits. As they wrap up the activity, the morning announcements flicker to life from a projector above them. It’s Principal Donna Bishop’s “welcome back” to the students of her school. She gives a brief salutation and asks them to stand for a moment of silence and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Establishing these types of routines, Baker said, is essential on the first day of kindergarten.
“This will be the foundation for the rest of their years in school,” said Baker who has taught kindergarten and first grade going on 12 years. “We want them to get used to the work, the routines, the schedules. Some of them have never been in a school setting all day long before, so teaching those routines is essential in getting them used to that idea.”
Another important step for the first day of kindergarten: meeting new friends.
Sporting multi-color visors, the students of Mrs. Baker’s class sit down on the carpet in a circle. It’s time, she says, “for everybody to get to know everybody else.”
Each child tells the group of about two dozen students their name, how old they are and a fact about themselves. When it comes Colby’s turn, he looks up at the eager, young faces: “My name is Colby. I’m 4 years old. I just got back from the beach.”
The McClendons came back from a vacation in July at Hilton Head Island, one of many “field trips” for the family as they prepared for the first day of classes.
As she reflected on the summer and the events leading up to Colby’s first morning of kindergarten Monday, Katie said she was excited to hear what her son would have to say when he got home from school.
“I’ve kind of been watching the clock tick by all day waiting for 3 p.m.,” Katie said early afternoon Monday. “I’m excited for both of them. It’s a whole new experience for Colby though. This is the big leagues, so to speak, and I’m thinking we’re off to a great start.”