New school year preparations double for one family

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Cole Mann remembers his kindergarten teacher well.

Ms. Blanchard at Cathedral was the best, he said. He remembers the lipstick kisses she&8217;d leave on his face at the end of the day and the songs she taught him, but the 14-year-old high school freshman admits he slept through his favorite part of kindergarten. And for that, he loved Ms. Blanchard.

&8220;If it was nap time and you didn&8217;t wake up, she&8217;d let you sleep,&8221; he said. &8220;She was real nice.&8221;

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Ms. Blanchard helped to instill self-esteem in Cole, his mother Felicia Mann said, and that&8217;s one of the most important things.

&8220;If you have a good kindergarten teacher that sets the stage,&8221; Felicia said. &8220;You&8217;ll be set from then on.&8221;

Maybe that&8217;s one of the reasons Felicia won&8217;t be getting much sleep tonight. Come morning, she&8217;ll have a room full of kindergartners looking to her to set their stage.

Felicia has six years of teaching experience under her belt, and she doesn&8217;t get nervous about the first day of school anymore, she said. But she does get excited.

&8220;It&8217;s just like it was when I was a child myself,&8221; she said Friday. &8220;I can&8217;t sleep the night before. I&8217;ll have the clothes all ironed and ready to go. I love teaching children. I love to see their faces when they start to learn things.&8221;

But there&8217;s no naptime in ninth-grade, and Cole&8217;s enthusiasm about a new year at Cathedral is that of a typical teen.

&8220;I&8217;m still ready to sleep late every single day,&8221; he said. &8220;And go swimming with friends and play baseball.&8221;

The preparations for back to school are double at the Mann house. Felicia has had her own classroom at West Primary to worry about, plus Cole&8217;s supplies.

They&8217;ve already gone uniform shopping in Baton Rouge, and they have school shoes and new athletic cleats. School supply shopping got put off until the last minute due to a busy summer, but a Saturday night Wal-Mart trip took care of that.

The graphing calculator on Cole&8217;s supply list costs enough to fill the entire list for Felicia&8217;s kindergarteners four times over. And he doesn&8217;t need any crayons or glitter glue.

Felicia&8217;s classroom was nearly complete Friday afternoon. She started more than a week ago arranging furniture, testing computers and creating the listening center. Cole got called in to help two days. School meetings filled the latter part of last week, and Friday evening was for finishing touches.

Unlike Cole&8217;s ninth-grade teachers, Felicia is allowed and even encouraged to take school slow the first week. She doesn&8217;t have to turn in lesson plans until next week, and the first-day routine is one she has memorized from years past.

&8220;We let them come in, get acclimated,&8221; she said. &8220;We teach them the rules, show them the school.&8221;

Because some of Felicia&8217;s students will be in a classroom for the first time ever, nobody&8217;s going to be pushing too hard.

Not the same for Cole. He has homework due Monday.

When his eighth-grade report card came last year it included a summer reading project. In June he read &8220;Call of the Wild,&8221; in July, &8220;Lord of the Flies.&8221; Each had a fairly in-depth special project and a report attached.

Felicia said she&8217;d proof his writing over the weekend.

Though he&8217;ll never admit he&8217;s excited, Cole said he&8217;ll be doing some thinking about the coming year tonight too.

&8220;I&8217;ll be thinking about which teacher is going to be the most influential on me,&8221; he said. &8220;Which ones are going to be your friends. It takes me about a week (to decide.) If I don&8217;t get in trouble, then I&8217;ll know who&8217;s good.&8221;

Cole knows his teachers influence his life. But Ms. Blanchard&8217;s lessons have carried well beyond his life, into his mother&8217;s and now into the lives of Felicia&8217;s kindergarten class.

&8220;(In kindergarten) he always came home teaching me a song that I could use in class,&8221; Felicia said.

Come Monday morning, she&8217;ll be singing Ms. Blanchard&8217;s songs for yet another year.