Kindergarten Reflections: What’s in a name?

(Originaly posted March 28, 2011)

The memories from sixteen years teaching Kindergarten are more than I could ever record in any medium. There were mundane days where on the outside looking in, nothing too miraculous seemed to take place. Some days, I counted it a success if everyone made it home in one piece–including the teacher! Among those sweet sixteen, there were years where one name held the banner high and would become “The (Insert name of note here) Year.” Since beginning this blog, several of my teacher friends have asked, “When are you going to write about (Insert name of note here)?” Here, on the horns of this nomenclatural dilemma is where I have been perched.

Obviously, I cannot use the actual name of any former student, and any name I choose could not be a child’s name ever in my class. Often when teaching I would use the name “Sally” as the mythical child who would dare go or do the worst possible option in any scenario. Yet “Sally” wouldn’t fit the bill here. The name for “The (Insert name of note) Year” had to be a perfect reflection–in my mind anyway–of this dear child, down to the number of syllables in the first, middle and last name. I just couldn’t tell the stories until the ghost name was set. So, after much pondering, contemplation and consultation (Thank you, Mark Martin!), the name to fit into my Kindergarten Melodrama was set: Bailey Elizabeth Norsstrum.

Some may think that was much hulla-balloo toward writing prep. After perusing the tales of dear Bailey and her Kindergarten antics, blogged here and in the days ahead, I feel sure you will see the gravity of choosing just the right name.

A few days before the school year begins, parents would bring students to “Meet the Teacher” night, a time for both teacher and student to put a face with a name. Bailey did not a attend “Meet the Teacher”, and the years preceding had taught me to be wary of those cherubs whose parents did not feel it necessary to attend the big get-to-know-you night.” This was to be no exception.

“The Bailey Year” began on day number one of the school year. Bailey arrived holding her Mom’s hand, bouncing and giggling–thrilled beyond measure to take in all that this new adventure called Kindergarten had to offer. As with all the children, I kneeled down to be on eye level as I introduced myself. “Hello Bailey, my name is Mr. Creel and I will be your Kindergarten teacher. I’m so glad that you are going to be in my class!” Continuing to bounce and giggle, Bailey never makes eye contact with me, and her mother encourages her to tell me her name. “My name is BAILEY ELIZABETH NORSSTRUM, and I am FOUR YEARS OLD!”

My heart skipped a beat. FOUR?? Did you say FOUR years old?? Bailey’s mother quickly added, “Yes, Bailey’s 5th birthday is coming up in a couple weeks.” (In Texas, the cut off date for entering Kindergarten is the last day of August. Bailey made the cut off…but just barely.) I also found out another critical piece of information: Bailey had not attended pre-school. This was her first day of school. Any school. I was her very first teacher.

I also firmly believe that this day was another first: the first time in her Four-soon-to-be-Five years on planet Earth for Miss Bailey Elizabeth Norsstrum to hear the following word uttered from the lips of an adult… “NO.”

And so “The Bailey Year” began…the year that neither me, nor my therapist will soon forget.

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