A teacher’s “Welcome to Kindergarten” song is helping to reduce first-day-of-school anxieties for many children this year.
Dwayne Reed, a dean of students at a Chicago elementary school, has always loved to sing. He recently demonstrated his talent in an Instagram musical performance called "Welcome to Kindergarten."
"Welcome to kindergarten, where we can learn and play. Get ready for all of the fun we'll have today," Reed, wearing a bow tie, sings in an empty classroom.
He later bursts into a rap. "Hey! Welcome to kindergarten. Welcome to our time at school. The best way to have a whole lot of fun is to listen to the teacher and follow the rules."
Brandishing a plush pencil, Reed raps:
"A whole lot of fun, a whole lot of games, we'll learn how to write our first and last name. Reading sight words like 'I am good' and sharing our supplies like every friend should."
Reed, a former fourth and fifth grade teacher who declined to disclose his place of employment to respect his colleagues' privacy, told TODAY Parents that the video aims to honor "angel" kindergarten teachers.
"I can't say it enough: Kindergarten teachers [are] tremendous," he said. "I am not doing anything they haven’t done forever — I just put it in front of a camera with music."
The 31-year-old is known for his 2016 "Welcome to 4th Grade" music video, which he recorded during his first year of teaching.
"Hello! I'm your teacher. My name is Mr. Reed and it's very nice to meet you," he rapped. "I'm from Chicago. I love eating pizza and I dress to impress but I still rock sneakers."
After that video created fans out of fourth, fifth and even sixth graders, Reed decided to turn to an even younger crowd.
"The kindergarten (year) can be really scary," said Reed, who has a 5-year-old son. "I see it — kids are crying and so are parents."
Reed is now sharing tips for parents of incoming kindergartners — and they're helpful for older children too:
Read books together about school
There are many children's books that address what it's like to go to school, ride a school bus, make new friends or follow classroom rules. Reed's favorites include "The King of Kindergarten" and "The Queen of Kindergarten" by Derrick Barnes.
Related essay by Derrick Barnes: Black joy matters: Why kids need to see Black protagonists in children’s books
“Reading together helps parents, caregivers and students,” Reed said. “You’ll process everything together and preemptively tackle issues.”
Don't hide emotions at drop-off
Dropping off your child at school for the first time can be intense — and parents shouldn't pretend otherwise. "It's OK to cry," Reed said.
To make it easier to part ways successfully, Reed suggested preparing children before the first day of school. "You can say, 'This might feel emotional or scary,'" he said. "Ask kids about their own worries or fears and address them specifically."
Reed also suggested asking your child's new teacher to call or email with your child. "They will likely leave that conversation feeling loved," he said.
Make the first day of school special
There's a difference between hyping up the first day of school (which could increase everyone's anxiety) and making it memorable.
"Maybe your kid has a dope outfit he wants to wear or you put his favorite snack in his lunchbox," Reed said. He added that comparing the first day of school to any other "first" (a trip to the park or to the zoo, for example) can help with kids' expectations.