Today was Matteo’s last day in the pre-kindergarten program at Yellow Submarine Nursery. He started in the upper preK class, the Dolphin Class, last September. We enrolled him in the program the previous April, having been warned that spots fill up quickly and we spent all last summer talking up the idea of being a big boy and going to school with other children.
He wasn’t having it. The first term of preK was frankly a struggle — a struggle to get him on a good schedule after our summer travels. A struggle for him to feel comfortable when I would leave him in his classroom. A struggle to eat his packed lunch each day. Many, many mornings were spent wrangling him to get dressed and out the door on time.
Just as he was starting to turn a corner from school being something he had to go to, to something he enjoyed, Matteo’s beloved teacher Ms. Leslie announced that she was moving back to the UK. Matteo was very close to Ms. Leslie — she had a soft spot for our sensitive little boy and an understanding that his shyness is not a character defect that needs correcting, but rather a personality trait to be considered. She was exactly what he needed in his first months in the preK program, a loving and encouraging presence. We were all very sad to say good-bye.
Then we met Matteo’s new teacher Ms. Emily.
Ms. Emily challenges Matteo. She, too, has a loving personality but she’s also firm — pushing him to do a little more each day. While this was hard for him initially, eventually Matteo wanted to make his teacher proud and would try something new just for the joy of being able to tell Ms. Emily of his efforts. The combination of Ms. Leslie and Ms. Emily was exactly what Matteo needed this year.
Matteo has learned so much this year. About letters, numbers, shapes, colors, animals, a little bit of Arabic, and a lot about the world around him! He also learned to be one child in a classroom of 16; that he enjoys playing with some children more than others. He is learning to share and collaborate, to be a part of a group and to consider how his actions affect those around him. His understanding of the world has really grown, and he loves telling us about his friends’ home countries: “Sebastian is from Peru! Mia is from England! Paula is from Brazil! Ms. Emily is from Australia!”. We look on a map together and point out the home countries of his friends and teachers, all the while noting that even though we’re all from different corners of the world, we all ended up together in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier this week we received Matteo’s end of year portfolio and his end of the year term report. It is amazing to see the measurable growth he has made since starting prek! I know kindergarten will be another challenge for him come September, but I really feel like this program has given him a good base on which he can build.
To say that we are proud of our little boy is an understatement. When we made the decision to move to Abu Dhabi in 2015, a big consideration for us was how a move across the world would effect Matteo. Overall I think it’s benefitted him, but of course its been hard too. Weekly video chats with his cousins is great, but its not the same thing as being able to play together on the regular (thanks again for the playdate invite for this Saturday, Millie. I wish we could make it, but we’ll see in a few weeks!). But one massive benefit of the move is being able to put him in great schools with talented teachers, starting with his preK program and looking forward to the great school we’ve chosen for him for his primary years.
I have two hours before I pick Matteo up from the Dolphin Class for the final time. We have a few weeks before our summer travels begin and I’m looking forward to lazy mornings and plenty of pool time. Congratulations on finishing your first year of a school program Matteo! You did great and now your reward is your very first SUMMER BREAK FROM SCHOOL!