Searching for Pete the Cat

My first week of school allows me ample time to visit in kindergarten (and be an extra set of hands) while the new kinders are getting used to school.

I greeted shining faces as they climbed down from the busses this morning. Some were bright with excitement, a couple were damp with tears. Still others were cautiously optimistic. Hands were held, heads patted, and backs rubbed. One mom needed a hug and reassurance as she handed off her first child to the unknown.

I helped with unpacking, and buttons, and snacks, and lunch. But the real adventure came after lunch.

The teacher read aloud a Pete the Cat book. On the last page Pete had left a note saying he’d gone to the music room and hoped the children would meet him there.

There were gasps. Hands covered mouths open wide in surprise.

“Pete the Cat is in our school?!”

“He’s here? We have to go find him!”

“I hope we find him!”

They lined up whisper quiet, some of them on tiptoe so they wouldn’t scare away Pete the Cat because, “Cats can get scared” according to one new friend.

As they started down the hall, one taller girl said over the heads of her classmates, “Pete the Cat isn’t real, you know.”

I held a finger to my lips and winked, “But we won’t tell.”

Eager feet traipsed in a lopsided line from one end of the school to the next as they followed Pete’s notes. Alas, we were always one step behind him. Though some eager boys found cat scratches in the carpeted halls.

Returning to their classroom to discover that Pete had been and gone again, one boy melted into tears. Others looked up at me and crooned, “But maybe we’ll find him another day when he comes back.”

Maybe we will.

I was fortunate today to comfort sorrow and witness joy. I nudged along fragile confidence in young readers and encouraged independence for snacks and personal care. “You try it.” I observed as our custodian introduced himself to every single child during lunch. I saw pure, uncomplicated belief and hopefulness. And I saw a couple of prematurely jaded kiddos. I have a sense of who will be resilient and who may need more mindset work. Without a single pencil I’ve learned about almost 40 students and two teachers.

I look forward to tomorrow and the year ahead.