Nervousness, new friends – and not even the parents shed first day tears when the next generation started school

On the first day of school the nervousness was evident and the emotions never far below the surface.

Padraic Flesk, Principal of Benedict’s National School, immediately moved to calm the many worried faces.

“We’ll be sending out a video later in the day just to let you know they’re okay,” he said with a relieved smile.

Whatever their parents, the new pupils in the three junior infant classes at St Benedict’s in Ongar, Dublin, were already adjusting to their new situation and had taken their places in the classroom.

With wide, serious eyes, they observed everything around them as they stacked the duplo and other plastic blocks in neat towers in front of them.

A little boy was so excited about a lighted racetrack that he immediately declared he wanted to get a similar one for his birthday.

For five-year-old twins AJ and Jaxx Cramer from nearby Clonee, the first day of school was another big milestone they had to sail through together.

“So far, it’s good. They’re just happy as long as they have each other – where one goes, the other goes,” said her mother, Ciara Gregg.

With three older sisters – Jodie, 19, Chloe, 13, and Poppy, 10 – ahead of them, the twins picked up school in no time.

“They were happy to change into their uniforms as soon as Poppy wore hers,” her father Adam said.

The family had just returned from their holidays in Spain and started preparing for school on the first day.

“They already know some friends in the class because they were in the daycare here together, so they know the yard and the playground — it’s all familiar to them, so that’s good,” Ciara said.

Just in case, however, she had “bribed” them with the promise of a visit to the toy store after school.

AJ and Jaxx had already chosen what they wanted – “a robot with a remote control” – one each in different colors.

“I never buy one of everything, it always has to be two,” Ciara said.

The twins’ teacher, Sheila Reilly, said she looks forward to teaching younger children like she did last year.

“It’s a new beginning for all of them and it’s a very big change, especially for the parents,” she said.

Her favorite part of teaching the kids is “getting to know their personalities and helping them grow.”

“It’s a very special age as they start their elementary education,” she said.

“These are the kids who were toddlers during the pandemic, but I think kids are extremely resilient and sometimes we underestimate that.”

Mr Flesk said he had 84 new junior children’s children this year, divided into three classes.

He wasn’t sure what impact, if any, the pandemic might have had on them.

“Some may not have attended daycare, but because we teach a lot through play, they make friends quickly,” he added.

St. Benedict’s was built a decade ago as a pilot community center school and is now thriving with 640 students.

An outdoor classroom and sensory garden built during the pandemic has greatly contributed to the sense of calm around the school, Mr Flesk said.

“It’s a very happy school. We have plenty of space in the yard for them and it’s great – and when we close at 4pm the community center takes over the space and runs the classes,” he added.

“When I come here at seven or eight in the evening, it’s full and the parents are there. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Brought to school by his father Julien and his mother Melanie, Reece Flierenbaum (5) from Ongar struggled a bit to adjust.

“It’s a big change – he didn’t like the uniform and he’s not used to the tie. We might have had to fight over every piece of clothing,” Julien said.

“But he will settle in quickly and get used to it quickly – that’ll be fine.”

Krystal Stokes (4), also from Ongar, had her hair up in two bows and was chatting happily with the class assistants.

“She was so excited to come to school,” her mother, Shannon, said, adding that Krystal is shy but really looking forward to making friends.

Katie Doyle, 5, was taken to school by her mother, Jennifer, and her six-month-old brother, Cillian. Her other brother, Conor, goes to preschool.

“She was very good and very excited when she came to school. There were no tears – not even from me!” said Jennifer.

Kuldeep Ghildigan and his wife Rajni were happy to see that their son Dalin, who turns five this month, had come to play straight away.

“He’s an only child for us,” said Kuldeep. “He’s very sociable and wants to have fun here.” Nervousness, new friends – and not even the parents shed first day tears when the next generation started school

Fry Electronics Team

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