#MNPSVoices: Charity McCracken, Haywood Elementary Kindergarten Teacher
Charity McCracken is a kindergarten teacher at Haywood Elementary, where she has welcomed the district’s youngest learners for three years. With a rainbow-filled room that is colorful, creative and inclusive, her students also mirror the classroom environment they are in – representing a rainbow of diversity.
“I want my classroom to be a place where my students feel comfortable,” McCracken said. “That is when the learning starts happening – when they feel confident enough to try new things.”
In the first class she taught at Haywood, students spoke 11 different languages. Today, her classroom has a similar makeup. One of her favorite parts about working in the district is teaching kids from all different places. Although the students may start the year speaking distinct languages, they all want the same thing: to feel understood and cared for, to make friends and feel confident in their learning. For many students, kindergarten is their first time experiencing a classroom setting and for others it may be the first time that they have spent more than a few hours away from home.
“There is something special in knowing I am a part of their first encounter with formal education,” McCracken said. “They grow so much in kindergarten. By the end of the school year they have become little people who can write their names, develop stories, make new friends and so much more.”
McCracken’s class keeps timely routines so students feel in control of their days and know what to expect, including journaling exercises, positive affirmations to drive confidence, and a morning meeting where they greet their classmates with eye contact and handshakes. From there, the day is mixed with social-emotional learning, arts, music, reading, math, writing, literacy centers and, in McCracken’s classroom, – yoga.
Her class focuses not only on basic learning principles but also on basic life principles. This year, she has honed in on two key values that her students will carry with them well beyond their kindergarten days: compassion and kindness. Only halfway through the year, McCracken says she already sees these values weaved throughout her students’ daily interactions.
“They develop an understanding that people have differences because every day they are learning alongside others [who are] different than them,” she said. “We have really worked on being kind to oneself and others, and being courageous with your compassion.”
With the Metro Nashville Public Schools kindergarten registration period opening March 1 for the 2019-2020 school year, McCracken said parents can best prepare their child for kindergarten in the fall by doing the following things:
Practice simple tasks and self-care like tying their shoes, writing their names, sharing, and being able to ask for help.
Talk with our child positively about entering kindergarten and going to school.
If possible, start on the first day of the new school year with their class.
“The first few days are so important because you are getting to know your class, building community and learning your routines,” McCracken said. “We welcome students whenever they arrive but if you can register and have them there for the first day, you should!”
*NOTE: To learn more about Metro Schools’ kindergarten experience, join us at the free MNPS Kindergarten Readiness Fair March 2, 9 a.m. at Lentz Public Health Center, located at 2500 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37209. Click here for more kindergarten readiness tips and registration information.