by Bjorn Billhardt
One of my very first memories in life is my first day of 1st grade in my hometown of Hamburg, Germany (Kindergarten, despite its German name, is actually not a mandatory grade in Germany). Before my official “Einschulung,” or entry into school, I was mainly spending my days at home with my mom and my little brother. Like most of us, I don’t remember much about what I did on normal days in the years before school; I am sure I had fun. I do remember vividly, though, my first day at school.
The school had a flat roof and some older kids, to mark the occasion, were allowed on the roof to welcome us new kids. I had a 3-foot paper cone with me that included all sorts of school supplies as was tradition in Germany back then and probably still is. Mostly, though, I remember being completely and utterly terrified. I think I held back my tears until my parents left and then started bawling and crawling into a corner where I tried to hide from the teacher and the other kids for the rest of the day.
A few years ago, I drove my oldest son to his first day of Kindergarten. Like most parents seeing their kid wander off into a big school for the first time, I had to hold back tears for very different reasons. Most striking to me, though, was the difference between my own experience over 30 years ago and that of my son. There was not a hint of anxiety on his face; on the contrary – he was excited and confident.
The reason, I strongly believe, is that for him, his first day at Kindergarten was just a simple switch from one building to another. Pre-K had allowed him to make friends, build social competencies, and gain a confidence entering new environments and interacting with others that I remember lacking for most of my elementary school years (and beyond, for that matter).
About the author:
Bjorn Billhardt is the CEO of Abilitie, a business simulation firm for leadership talent development. Bjorn is also a member of the Board of Directors at Magellan International School, a Spanish Immersion, International Baccalaureate School serving 460 students in grades Pre-K3 – 8th. He and his wife Kirsten reside in Austin, TX and have three boys, all students at Magellan.
MIS Parent & Member, Board of Directors
Also published on Medium.