CHAMPAIGN – First day of kindergarten for students at Robeson Elementary School: One little girl cried. One father with a video camera got choked up.
It's a big day for children and an emotional one for parents. But the teachers skillfully get the children settled, and by 8 a.m. Friday, they sit quietly at their tables, ready to get to know each other and learn what school is all about.
Half the kindergarten students in the Champaign schools started class Thursday and the other half on Friday, giving teachers a smaller group to work with as they introduced the children to their classrooms.
Jonathon Smith documented the milestone for his son, Justin, following him into the school and classroom with a video camera.
"I said, 'OK, I'm not going to cry,' and when I got in the room, I got choked up," Smith said.
Justin seemed to adjust to kindergarten just fine.
"We've been preparing him for a while, talking about school, getting him excited," said his mom, Michelle.
The students and parents had been to the school earlier in the week to meet the teachers. And with so many children going to preschool, teachers see fewer tears from the kids these days, said kindergarten teacher Wendy Maxson.
But do the parents cry?
"Oh yes, but usually only out in the hallway," Maxson said. "They usually keep a stiff upper lip until they leave."
Kindergarten teacher Karen Cadwallader added: "I think the parents are usually more upset than the kids. You'll have one or two kids who are a little hesitant, but parents are the ones who don't want to leave."
"We let them come in and take their pictures and say their goodbyes, then (the students) are set for the day," Maxson said.
As the day got started, Cadwallader helped each child get a sticky note with his or her name on it and place it on a sign next to a picture of pizza, indicating they would be eating the hot lunch that day, or next to a picture of a sack lunch.
When she asked what they would be eating, most of the children silently pointed to the pizza.
The day's agenda included talking about how things worked in the classroom and what is expected of the children at school, and playing name games and doing activities to help them get to know each other.
Riley Kofoed seemed ready to start, accompanied to her classroom by her mother, Trevor, and father, Bob. But as she gave them both long hugs just inside the doorway, she started crying.
Her parents stayed with her for a little while longer, talking to her about what was going on in the classroom.
Then they sat her down at one of the tables, took a photo, talked to her again and left the room.
"She was a little nervous, trying to meet the new kids and get used to the new surroundings," Trevor Kofoed said.
A few minutes later, Riley was all smiles as she helped Maxson take the day's attendance report to the office.
"Look at her. She looks so big," said Trevor Kofoed, watching her daughter walk down the hallway.
"She's growing up," Bob Kofoed said.
Trevor Kofoed added: "This starts that whole process of letting go."