CAS Project: Primetime Student-Led Initiative
Objective: To enable kindergarten students (pre-reception, reception, and prep) to feel comfortable with the school environment. This starts with training the children to be independent of their parents right when they arrive at school and being confident with their morning routines (unpacking their school bags, putting their homework in the teacher’s collector bin etc.).
The first day of kindergarten is an incredibly fearful and nerve-racking experience for any child, parent or teacher in the mix. I’ve seen children cry endlessly when their mother let go of their hand, parents chugging down cups and cups of coffee to wake themselves up and teachers holding an insane amount of toys as distractions for the kids.
The Primetime initiative is a student-led initiative that aims to enable kindergarten students at CDNIS to feel comfortable with their unfamiliar school environment. The initiative involves upper-school volunteers who guide the children through their morning routines straight when they arrive school whether it is bus or car, with parent or none. I am in charge of this initiative, I collaborated with my grade 7-9 upper school counselor Ms. Stewart to carry out this program from 2017-2018. My experience with teaching and interacting with children for a few days in Myanmar during CAS week in 2015 and attending a few sessions of Kids4Kids in Hong Kong has definitely sparked my inspiration for continuing this program as a leader. I always felt joy and comfort reaching out to people and helping out with how they felt. The main issue the school was having was the insane amount of traffic from 7am to 7:45am up our one-way hill. Parents of the lower school students kept their drivers waiting in the cars while they would send their kids off to their classroom. Having brainstormed and devised a clever plan of solving this problem, it further developed into a chance for upper school and lower school students to bond as well as help kindergarten students strengthen their confidence.
My job was to find volunteers that were willing to give up 2-3 mornings a week to help out with this program, send out surveys to get feedback and information on the progression of the program and its effectiveness, devise a schedule that would match and please the majority, communicate with my counsellor about progress and new potential ideas etc.. The workload was definitely not small- on top of other school work I had however it was a very memorable and humbling experience when the program flowed well and received incredible feedback from parents and other teachers. It was both enjoyable for the volunteers as it was an easy and loose activity, and it took stress off the parent’s shoulders who didn’t have to get off their car knowing that their children are in good hands.
Though humbling and memorable, this experience was not always easy. Near the beginning of the program when we were just starting out, parents were not willing to have their children taken away from them; most really cherished and enjoyed the time of bringing their child to the classroom door. The program itself had no malicious intent of taking the children from their parents however due to the issue of traffic we had to devise a plan. We decided that although the parents declined our offer of taking their children to the classroom- we chose to tag along as a second party. It definitely took some time to get used to and the parents didn’t always enjoy our company, however, we thought that this method would be the smoothest transition into getting the children and parents comfortable with us and our program. We even wore sashes that said student helper to make ourselves seem more legit and trustworthy!
Another issue was managing shifts- since the volunteers consisted of 10-15 10th-12th graders. Around 4-5 volunteers had to volunteer every single day for there to be an adequate amount of people to manage kindergarteners coming from buses, private cars and filling classrooms on two floors. This meant that every student had to come at least 3 times a week for there to be sufficient rotation yet a good amount of help. This was a challenge as a few were not as heavily committed as others and would skip out on the program without letting me know in advance. After deliberation with my counselor, we decided that perhaps putting volunteers in pairs would make the schedule flow more easily as it would be more routined and organised for the parents and children in identifying whos there on duty when.
Through this experience, I learned patience from building a connection with younger kids and their parents and organisation by being part of a program that relied so heavily on organisation to be successful. I also learned the art of being spontaneous as things don’t always go right and didn’t go right for a small part of this program such as when parents were hesitant however I learned to just go ahead and do what you think is right. The program lasts all in all for around 4-5 months as that is when the children get more independent and familiar with their routines. The program achieved its main goal and was successful because of the help and collaboration of members and teachers.