Quelling those first-day fears

Sudbury Star

Grace, left, and Fiona Gilbeau enjoy some time in the hammock before heading back to school next week. The two girls are excited, if a bit nervous, to be heading back into the classroom. They both attend Pius XII Catholic School. Mary Katherine Keown/Sudbury Star / jpg, SU

According to Grace Gilbeau, math is epic.

The eight-year-old is excited to return to school this week at Pius XII Catholic School. She is going into Grade 4 and is looking forward to math, science and art. There are several nurses in her family, so she comes by her inclination naturally.

“I’m waiting for math, because I like math,” she says.

She was enjoying a week-long staycation with mom and her sister, Fiona, during the week before school. The three indulged in a little back-to-school shopping – the girls favour a purple, blue, gold and pink palette for nearly everything – visits with family and lots of backyard time.

“I got lots of new clothes,” she smiled.

Grace was enjoying her week and could only muster a bit of excitement for school, but she did say she was looking forward to seeing her friends. She is also excited to be returning to Mr. Tourville’s classroom; he previously taught Grace during her kindergarten years.

“I get to do gym and I still have recess,” she said. “Sometimes I like art, sometimes that’s my favourite thing to do during the day. In Grade 3 we did it at the end of the day. It was awesome.”

Grace says she has always enjoyed music, and plans to take singing and swimming lessons throughout the school year.

Fiona, 7, says she is a little nervous about Grade 2, but excited to be returning to school. She has been working with mom on a few coping mechanisms that should help with nerves, such as deep breathing and “chilling out.”

“I want to see my friends from school,” she says.

Fiona and Grace have some advice for kids just starting school.

“Mostly I would just say have fun on your first day and maybe you’ll learn something new,” Grace says.

Fiona wants new students to know “it’s going to be okay.”

In order to quell first-day fears, staff at Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre on Applegrove Street organized a day-long event Thursday that introduced children entering kindergarten to school.

“This makes sure that everything is up-to-date and that they’re ready for day one,” Jordan Assinewe, a health promotor at the centre, says. “We have them running through different stations – dental, developmental screening, welcome to kindergarten, Indigenous storytelling, health snacks and physical activity.”

There is also a 30-minute bus trip through the neighbourhood to introduce little ones to the ins and outs of riding the bus.

“The kids loved it,” Assinewe says.

Erika Gollan, a registered nurse with the health centre, says this year all of the kids were brave enough to go alone on the bus.

“In previous years there have been kids who are too anxious to come on (alone), but this year everyone was on board, every kid was excited and it was an awesome experience for them,” Assinewe adds.

Every child who registers for the event gets a backpack filled with all the essentials, including a lunch box, pencils, a water bottle and pencil case. Assinewe says the children really like their swag.

“The whole day is supposed to be a fun day,” he says.

Gollan says the centre also provides information for caregivers on preparing healthy snacks and lunches, and the importance of ensuring kids get proper sleep.

Shkagamik-Kwe has been hosting this event for years and each year they follow a theme. This year, elders taught the children about seven different clans through storytelling sessions.

“It’s important to teach kids about clans because of the trauma our culture has gone through,” Assinewe says. “As an organization that’s a big thing in what we do. We incorporate culture in any way we can.”

A big part of imparting cultural education is allowing children to learn more about who they are, Gollan says.

“Anything we do with culture – especially with these young kids who are developing – is finding their identity, who they are and what that means,” she says.

The Gilbeau girls and the children who participated in Shkagamik-Kwe’s introductory day are just some of the more than 30,000 students who will be returning to school next week. From junior kindergarten to post-secondary, students all over the city will be scurrying for buses and running to make the bell.

“We are always excited to see our new and returning students,” Lyse-Anne Papineau, the director of education at CSC Nouvelon, says. “With the support of our staff, parents and partners, we are committed to offering a quality French-language Catholic education to all of our students.”

The French Catholic board expects to welcome about 6,700 students to 37 schools next week. The Rainbow District School Board, meanwhile, will welcome more than 13,000 students when classes resume on Sept. 4, including 1,547 children who are registered for kindergarten and 897 who will be entering Grade 9.

At Cambrian College, a full weekend of festivities is planned to welcome new and returning students. Move-in weekend began Friday and hundreds of students were expected to move into their residence rooms. By Monday, the college will be booming with a boisterous cacophony of activity.

“Move-in weekend is a very exciting and life-changing time for our new students as we welcome them into their residence homes,” Courtney Rivard, the college’s special events administrative assistant, says. “We try to make it fun and easy with a team of about 70 student ambassadors and many Cambrian volunteers who are helping their fellow students get settled.”


Twitter: @marykkeown

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