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'Now Fourth Quarter Is The First Day,' Says KCK Student Teacher After Welcoming Kindergarteners Back To School

Maria Martinez reads “If You Bring a Mouse to School” to the kindergarten class where she is doing her student teaching at Mark Twain Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas.
Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
Maria Martinez reads 'If You Bring a Mouse to School' to the kindergarten class where she is doing her student teaching at Mark Twain Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas.

This week most Kansas City, Kansas, students returned to classrooms for the first time in over a year. Student teacher Maria Martinez got to meet her kindergarteners in person for the first time.

Martinez, a senior at Emporia State University in Kansas, is a Walton education fellow sharing her experiences in a kindergarten classroom at Mark Twain Elementary this semester. She spoke with KCUR’s Elle Moxley about what it was like to welcome students back to school, some for the very first time.

Elle Moxley, reporter: So Maria, how’d it go?

Maria Martinez, student teacher: It was a good first day of kindergarten. I do think that it was a scary fourth quarter day of kindergarten. You know, it just depends on how you're looking at it: This is their first day of school, versus they've also been learning for three quarters.

EM: These are not kids who had been in school last year. The pandemic interrupted their education. I mean, we're talking about 5- and 6-year-olds who may never have been in a classroom situation before, right?

MM: Yeah. And that's something that definitely was apparent on the first day. Of the students who have had classroom experience before, like maybe in preschool, you can tell those are the students who knew how to be in a classroom versus the students that it's their first day of kindergarten, their first day in a classroom and their first day in a school. There are lots of new things that kindergartners who have never been to school don't know. Like if a voice comes over the intercom, and they're giving an announcement, like that can be scary because it's like, ‘Who's talking and where is that voice coming from?’ And so those are just things that pop up on the first day that it's like, wow, those are first day of school things, not fourth quarter things. But now fourth quarter is the first day. So it's going to be an adjustment for a lot of kids.

EM: Where are you typically in the fourth quarter? What kinds of things are kindergartners usually learning at this point in the school year?

MM: This is my first experience being a teacher of kindergarten level, but, you know, based on what we've been learning and based on the standards that we've been following, the students should already know their ABCs, should already know how letters sound. They know their numbers. They know their names; they know how to spell and write their names. They know some basic sight words, and so that kind of helps them with decodable books. So they should be just starting to do that or getting more fluency in those sight words,

EM: Your kids are kindergarteners, and you’re an adult, but you're also a student yourself right now. You're a student teacher, and you're learning, and the pandemic has interrupted your education. Did you feel some solidarity with your kids? You know, as they're kind of coming into the building and feeling a little out of place and not being quite sure what to do?

MM: I related with the kindergarteners who maybe didn't know, like where do we go for lunch? What do we do after lunch? I have a copy of the schedule, and I understand where we're supposed to be going. (I’ve) been teaching with the school. As far as being at the building, like at the site, I've only been here a couple of weeks, so really I'm still learning my way around. So I really just feel for those students because I understand it's the first day. It's my first day of being their teacher to face-to-face.

EM: Were there any moments today where you really thought you could do it because the kids were kids and they were awesome?

MM: The first thing in the morning that made all the rest of the things that happened in the day worth it was having the students that I've only been able to see through a square on Zoom, and you know, we're not really like hugging them or giving them high fives or anything like that. But I loved when they were like, ‘Hello, Miss Martinez!’ And they said good morning and stuff. Like they recognized me. And I was like, ‘Oh, that was so cute.’ To me, that was just awesome. That was like the moment where I was like, yeah, I’m going to make it through this day, no matter how crazy it is.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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