By Sarah Colson
When Kindergartener David Barbour stepped through the doors of South Side Elementary School for the first time last fall, he was pretty nervous about it (You may remember when we introduced you to David in our Aug. 8, 2014 issue as he prepared for his first day of school.). Now that he has an entire school year under his belt, he realizes there was nothing to worry about after all.
David’s nerves calmed down immediately, in fact, when he was assigned to the same teacher he had gotten to know during his first day of school, Mrs. Jamie Mains.
“He is not nervous anymore,” Mains told News and Neighbor. “He’s made lots of friends. He’s very creative. He loves reading; he loves learning new things. He’s so into science. He knows so much about animals. When we talk about animals, he can tell me things that I don’t even know. Anytime we do anything science-related, he just lights up.”
Mains said David is much more outgoing and confidant than the timid boy who first entered her classroom nine months prior. Along with loving science, David reads at a level that is higher than the required kindergarten level and according to him, he can subtract and count to “a little past 100.”
Before kindergarten, David said he could probably only count to two. Then with a giggle he added, “I mean not really two, but like 18 probably.”
During his first visit to Mains’ classroom, David showed Mains his book, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” but he couldn’t read it all. Now, one of his favorite things to do is read books. His favorite is called “Where’s Elephant?”
“My favorite thing to write about is books,” he said.
Mains, who has taught at South Side for eight years, said, “The highlight for me is always just when they cross the line from letters and sounds and are actually reading. That is always the highlight of my year.”
Mains has enjoyed watching David and her other students grow during the school year. She also coaches Girls on the Run and has coached for 10 seasons, or five years, now. Coaching allows her the chance to see some of her students a couple years after they’ve left her class.
“The best part is just to see how much they grow through the year,” she said. “They just come in so new and so fresh and they really don’t know much about school, they don’t know the procedures, and by the end of the year they’re reading. And that, to me, is the most rewarding part.”
One of the more difficult times of year for Mains is always the first month or two when students who have never been in school before have to learn the new procedures and rules that are so crucial before going on to first grade.
“It’s bittersweet, but I do enjoy starting that process all over again because the reward is so beneficial at the end—just to see how much they grow and learn in kindergarten,” she said. “It’s a big year for kiddos and it’s their first exposure to school. I believe that as a Kindergarten teacher, you have to really walk that fine line of being a mother or motherly type and being authoritative, but they’re still five years old so you set the tone. If they have a bad time in kindergarten, that’s not what we want. We want them to enjoy kindergarten and really fall in love with school. I think that’s the number one job of a kindergarten teacher, to have them fall in love with school. I feel like he (David) has. He seems to like it a lot.”
The process of helping kids fall in love with school involves quite a bit of hard work on the child’s part. This hard work pays off, however, when students go from not writing at all to being able to write five-sentence stories on their own.
“It’s just more intense,” she said of the difference in what students learned eight years ago when she started teaching and what they are expected to know now. “We just expect more. There’s less play than there used to be in kindergarten, (there are more) higher-order thinking skills in math. Every year their rigor is raised a little bit more and I think that’s a good thing.”
David seems to have handled that rigorous learning with ease. Though Mains was reading to him on the first day, he spent a few minutes during the last interview searching for his favorite book to read aloud to her. Settling for another book, he opened it up and confidently read five pages. Even with his newfound confidence, however, David still has some apprehensions about what lies ahead. When asked how he feels about first grade, he answered, “Scared a little bit.” Why is he scared a little bit? Thinking for a moment, his face broke into a grin and he answered, “I don’t know.”
It seems David shouldn’t be scared at all. With the help of Mains, David’s first year of school was more than successful.
When asked to share the coolest thing he did all year, David–looking at Mains–said, “Meeting you!”
“That was one of my coolest things too!” Mains replied.