Ask the Teacher! Your First Day at School Questions Answered. Part 1

I have received some great questions as part of my “Ask the Teacher! Your First Day at School Questions Answered”!!! Here are the questions that I have received so far. I hope that those of you with children starting school/preschool find them useful.

1. I’m just wondering should both parents come into the class on the first day or just one and should we stay for long in the class?

 How many parents attend is entirely up to you and how practical it is for both of you to attend. If you feel that having another parent there would act as a support to you then it would be a fantastic idea. As strange as it may seem the “first day” is often harder for the parents. When you leave the classroom and walk down the path to the car alone it can be hard. If you cannot have a partner with you make an arrangement to meet a friend for coffee if you can or even flag it with a work colleague who has been through the experience. It is good to have someone there for you too!

2. If the child is upset – should I/we just walk away or does it make it worse to stay and reassure for a while?

It can seem that leaving an upset child is the worst thing to do. It can be a very difficulty thing to do. I can assure you that the best thing to do is, in fact, to walk away. I do not mean that you just drop and run. You need to set the scene for your child.

Firstly, tell Teacher that you are going to leave but “Ann” is still a little unsettled.

Secondly reassure Ann that you are happy with school: “ I love you loads. I know that Miss… will take care of you. Remember to put up your hand if you need anything or want to go to the toilet. I will be back in a little while to collect you. I know that you will have a lovely morning.” Finally: Kiss and leave promptly.

What you need to do is reassure your child. If you are emotional and reluctant to go, your child will interpret this as your not being happy to leave him/her there. “If Mom is crying this must be a bad place!” This will worry him/her.  You need to “seem” calm and certain that school will be a good experience.

There is a correlation to remember: the longer you stay the more upset you both become, the harder it will be to be to leave and the harder it will be to settle your child when you leave.

I have NEVER had a child who did not settle. It can take some time, but children generally settle. It can seem as though he/she did not because seeing you at home time may cause him/her to cry again. Then it looks as though he/she did not settle at all.

I am pretty confident that no teacher would leave a child completely distraught in school for the day. Your child’s teacher will want your child to settle and do everything possible to make this happen.  I always tell parents that I will phone home if I cannot get their child to settle. I would, but I have never needed to.

If it would reassure you, have your telephone number in an envelope and hand it to teacher. Then she doesn’t even need to look it up on the system.


3. When do the children have their break times – is it usually one break where they eat sandwiches or are there two breaks (one long, one short?)

There are 2 distinct lunch breaks: big break and small break. Little break is approximately 10 minutes long, 11-11.10 approx. Big Break is about 30 minutes long, 12.30-1pm approx. The timings are based on a 9.20 am school start. If your child’s school starts at 9am they will be earlier but of a similar duration. Just bear in mind that this includes actual “playtime” so your child will not actually have 30 minutes to eat. I would approximate 10-15 of actual time to eat.

Most Junior Infant classes start on a short day for the first few weeks. This means that there will only be one lunch break, “little break”.

Little Break- perhaps some chopped up fruit, cheese or a cereal bar and a drink.

Big Break- a sandwich or wrap, rice cakes or fruit and a drink.

4. If I am upset, should I just try and hide it and leave the classroom quickly?

It is best for your child if you try and hide your upset as best you can. Seeing you upset will unsettle your child. “Act” calm and confident. Tell the teacher that you are leaving. Reassure your child. Say goodbye and leave. The aim is to keep you both as settle as possible.

5. Do they usually bring a school bag and a lunch bag to school? Or should I put lunchbox in school bag?

Lunch boxes with handles  are the best choice in my experience. Some have a section at the side where a drink can be stored and others are just the right size to hold a beaker. Having a separate lunch box and beaker to carry is cumbersome. At snack time then you have to locate your drink and your lunch box. Try and have a lunch box that will hold both.

Screen Shot 2013-08-24 at 22.46.22 Screen Shot 2013-08-24 at 22.46.49

Should your child’s lunch box be carried in his/her hand or placed in the school bag? This will vary from class teacher to class teacher.  I like children to put lunchboxes on a shelf rather than in their bags incase their drink leaks. Do whatever seems best to you on the first morning. The class teacher will explain to the class what the routine is for lunch boxes and he/she will know for the following day.  Just ensure that you have clearly marked the outside of the box and beaker with your child’s name and teacher will do the rest.

6. Do they need copy books for Junior Infants or is it just workbooks?

Your child will use wide-ruled copies but not until later in the year. Your teacher will either purchase them for you or send you a detailed note outlining what you should buy. All copies have codes on them. Different codes denote different line dimensions, space for a picture etc. Check your child’s booklist. You may find that you are paying for them as part of the monies that are collected at the beginning of the year.

7. When do they get homework?

This will completely depend on the Class Teacher and how he/she has planned the year out. We have lots of detailed plans to write! That said, Junior Infants beg their teacher for homework. You may find that “homework” in the form or a coloring sheet or pre-writing sheet, where your child traces over patterns, will come home pretty quickly. I am using the term “homework” loosely. It is generally something sent home so that children have the all important homework to do.

More formal homework will be sent home during the year. Again, how quickly it comes depends on the Class Teacher’s planning.  When it does come it is likely to be some phonetic sounds that have been covered in class, some word and or a reader. I will be covering phonics, reading and words on my website so visit it regularly to keep up to date on these topics.

8. Should they bring a topper/sharpener in pencil case to school?

It is no harm to send one in. Clearly label it with your child’s name. Very often it is the teacher who will sharpen pencils so that children do not top them away! After a while I leave one out for children to use.

9. Do Junior Infants need change of clothes in school bag?

Yes and no. Accidents happen. Your child’s school will have a policy on how this is handled. Generally if your child is able to change him/herself and is not too upset you will not be phoned to come in. If a child needs assistance changing we would generally phone for Child Protection reasons. We have spare underwear and clothes for children to borrow. Some children are uncomfortable with the idea of “borrowed underwear”. I think that keeping a change of socks and underwear in your child’s school bag is no harm. They won’t take up too much space. Send teacher a note telling him/her that it is there and remind your child.

I am thrilled to answer any of your questions or concerns. If your question has not been asked please contact me by email:,  on my Facebook page or by leaving a comment below.

Have fun,

Miss Mernagh 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s