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Najwa’s First Day of School

Najwa’s First Day of School

Several weeks ago parents whose child was a first-timer at DC Prep had to attend orientation. Do you know how long it’s been since I sat in a school cafeteria [I mean — Prepeteria]? Good stuff. Getting your child into a charter school is already a harrowing experience. Getting your child into one of the Tier 1 schools is even more nerve-racking. We hit the lottery with DC Prep-Edgewood Campus.

So, we’re going over the beginning of school. The first two days are like fire drills. We parents bring our kids and chill in the Prepeteria while the teachers introduce the kids to the classroom environment. If a child simply isn’t feeling it, the teachers come get the parents for some intervention.

When we first started taking Najwa to the babysitter, ever since she was just months old, we never had a moment when she threw a hissy fit when we left for work. When we put her into a daycare with a bunch of other kids she never met, she didn’t even notice when we left. When we leave her with more strangers each Sunday at church, the only issue we had was once when she didn’t want to leave with us when we picked her up.

Needles to say, I emphatically said Najwa would give the teachers no issues at all that first day.


The day started off on the wrong note. Najwa, used to wearing her colorful clothes, wasn’t feeling the uniform. She expresses her dislikes by describing things as boring. “This toy is boring.” “This french fry is boring.” “This bath is boring.”

That first morning of school, “These clothes are boring.” She wanted the beautiful dress. And the beautiful shoes. Not the boring navy blues and black shoes. But we have no choice, one of the things we love about DC Prep. Though I’m a firm believer in freedom of expression, I just don’t want other kids expressing things I prefer my child not learn about yet.

But Najwa did a little modeling of her new threads as we walked to the school.

Najwa's First Day of School

Najwa's First Day of School

Najwa's First Day of School

We were asked to bring Najwa’s favorite. Initially we weren’t going to bring anything. Najwa doesn’t have a favorite toy unless you count the Kindle Fire, which I was told not to bring by her teacher. But just before we left the house, I grabbed her purple hippo, a gift from one of Nduku’s friends.

When we got to the school, the lobby was packed. We PK3 parents didn’t get the memo saying we weren’t supposed to be there until at least 8:30. With almost an hour to kill, it did help get Najwa to get used to all those kids! At the babysitter, there may have been 5 kids at the most. At the daycare when we dropped her off, there never seemed to be more than a dozen. At church each class was maybe a dozen. In the lobby of DC Prep, it seemed like hundreds of people.

Najwa's First Day of School at DC Prep

Najwa's First Day of School at DC Prep

Najwa's First Day of School at DC Prep

For the first day of school, the teachers did a great job corralling all the kids and we parents into the class and making it pretty smooth. It was orderly and, for the most part, painless for everyone. I was expecting a lot of crying and tantrums and maybe a kid throwing things, but everyone seemed sane.

Najwa, though, was starting to show some cracks in her composure. When she was asked to hold the “1st Day of Pre School” sign, her face said it all. She really wasn’t in the picture taking mood. Though many fewer people than in the lobby, a much smaller space so she was getting frustrated.

Najwa's First Day of School at DC Prep

The teachers, though, I must say did an amazing job on the classroom and really were ready for the kids. The rooms are named after colleges. Najwa is in the George Mason University room. Brightly decorated; saturated with positive themes, sayings and everything; toys, play areas and a “Calm Down” area; is it obvious that it’s been years since I’ve been in a classroom for kids?

To start school, your child has to turn three by the end of September. Najwa will be three a couple of weeks before then, making her the youngest person in the class, if not the entire building. It still boggles my mind that she’s starting school, albeit a glorified daycare, before she even turns three!

Several of the other kids are way more advanced than Najwa, socially, communication wise and being cognizant of what was going on. Perhaps they turn four in a few months from now, missing the cut last year. Najwa, for all intents and purposes, is still a baby.

As everyone got settled, and the teachers were ready to get the show on the road, Najwa, well, she is still a baby. Or is it that she’s a Gaines and doesn’t like being told what to do?

While the other kids sat in a semi-circle to start the morning, Najwa sat at a table, making it clear she had no intentions of joining her new classmates. This social butterfly of ours was the only kid to rebel against the system. And Najwa wasn’t cordial about it. She made it clear she was not going to partake in the morning singing and rituals.

Najwa not happy being at DC Prep
Najwa not happy being at DC Prep

The teachers, though, moved along, as they should’ve, with class. They were probably expecting the parents to handle it. Which we did, the only way we felt would work. We left the room.

When we got the report later of how things went after we left, her teacher said Najwa was a good student and participated. She calmed down and joined the other kids.

We, the parents, knew that as long as we were there, as we were required, Najwa was going to show out. On Najwa’s second day, Nduku got to leave early [I got sick and couldn’t make it] because Najwa was fine without us in the room. Either that or Najwa realized that her teachers don’t play. We love DC Prep.

We’re now all set and ready to go. First real real day is tomorrow, Najwa is warming up to her uniform and we now have 16 years to save up for college.

How time flies…


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