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Posts Tagged ‘learning to write’

Tomorrow is the first day of school here.  I can imagine how excited kids are, whether they are happy to return to school or not, to make that trip to school tomorrow.  I was sitting here thinking of the night before I started kindergarten.

When I was little, we lived on Seventh Street about five blocks from Horace Mann Elementary School.  Before i started school, my sisters and I would go stand outside the front of the house with my mom as she watched my older siblings walk to school.  We could just stand on the sidewalk and wait and watch as they got further and further from us, closer and closer to school.  In the afternoon, we’d go wait outside to watch as they got closer and closer to us.

I used to wonder what school was like and what the people there were like.  I knew that at home we spoke Spanish all the time but when my brothers were home from school, they spoke English to each other.  Little by little I learned to speak English too but at home, with my parents, we spoke Spanish.  I wondered what it would be like at school where everyone spoke only English.

Good things came from going to school.  When my brothers came home from school, they would bring books and papers with them.  I didn’t know how to read but I loved looking at the books.  I loved looking at the pictures and at the strange letters that my brothers said were sentences that meant things.  I wasn’t used to books at home.  We didn’t have them.  My mom had a Bible and there was a big phone book but we didn’t have regular books.  My father read the newspaper when he got home from work so I knew he could read and that it was interesting to read because my dad would get so caught up in what the newspaper said that he often forgot we were sitting next to him waiting to play with him because we had missed him all day long while he was at work.

I remember too that my mother used to get magazines in the mail.  I remember Look and Life magazines.  They were big, especially to a child, they were oversized magazines with a lot of pictures  in them.  I liked looking at those pictures and I wished that I knew how to read but my mom said I couldn’t learn to read until I went to school.  So I looked forward to going to school so I could learn to read.

I remember the day before I started kindergarten.  I was so excited!  I got to wear a new dress that the lady next door had made for me.  I had new shoes and pretty new white socks with pink ruffles at the top.  My uncle lived with us then and I remember sitting at the red formica table in the kitchen, excitedly talking to my uncle Joe about going to school.  I wanted him to tell me what it would be like and what I would have to do.  I was afraid that the teacher might say something to me that I wouldn’t understand because although I did speak English, there were a lot of words I didn’t know.  My uncle said there would be a lot of time to play and the teacher would read stories to the class.  He said I would get to draw pictures and then he said I had to be careful to write my name on my papers so the teacher would know that they were mine and I would get them back.

I froze.  I couldn’t say anything.  I just sat there with tears in my eyes looking at Uncle Joe.  He asked me what was wrong.  Why was I crying?  I pretended there was nothing wrong but he knew something was upsetting me.  In the end I told him that I couldn’t write my name on my papers because I didn’t know how.  He laughed and said he would teach me how to write my name.  That afternoon, Uncle Joe and I sat at the kitchen table and he taught me to say the alphabet, which I hadn’t know before that day.  Then he showed me how to write each letter.  Finally, when I had learned how to make each of the letters, he taught me how to write my name.  Letter by letter, he taught me to write C-O-R-I-N-A.  By the end of a couple of hours, I was very happy because I knew I would be ready to go to kindergarten the next day.

The next morning, I waited impatiently on the front sidewalk as my brothers and my older sister walked to school.  My mom and my sisters and I watched from there and I could not wait until I would be walking home with my brothers and sister that afternoon after my first day at afternoon kindergarten!

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