Published: | By: Committee for Children Kindergarten Teachers ROCK! This week's blog post comes from Teryl Hughes, our Research Associate. My niece, Haedin, is a hoot. She is the only grandchild in my family, and we have a lot of fun interacting with her and enjoying her “firsts.” Because she lives in New Mexico, I only see her once or twice a year and every visit brings new surprises. Most recently, in June, I called her by her pet name, Baby Girl, and was reprimanded: “Auntie Teryl, I am not a baby. I’m going into kindergarten!” Wait, what?! Kindergarten?! How did this sneak up on me? I’ve spent the last few months since that wakeup call coming to terms with this new phase in her life. New research about the importance of the kindergarten experience has been highlighted byThe New York Times recently. Economists discuss how a quality kindergarten teacher and classroom experience can pay off for youngsters into their late twenties. Beyond the potential economic payoff for children who have great kindergarten teachers and experiences, kindergarten is an important time for children to make friends, adapt to the school environment, and find a sense of community at their school. Research has found that kids who feel connected to school perform better academically and are less likely to misbehave or drop out. School connectedness has also been associated with reduced drug use, violence, and delinquency. Essential to creating a sense of school connectedness is creating a safe, supportive, environment where students feel safe and accepted by their peers./p> Because school connectedness and a healthy school climate can have such a large impact on future success, which is defined in a variety of ways, it’s worth our while to do all we can to help students (of all ages) feel safe and connected to their schools and peers. While Haedin prepares for her first day as a “big kid” in kindergarten (in just a few days!), I am bursting with excitement for her because this is such a fun time. I know she will feel anxious on the first day, but soon she will make friends and they will be off on their new journey together. Author’s note: There are other ways to help make sure students are prepared for school. Do an Internet search on “school supplies donation,” along with your city name, to find ways to help outfit students in your community with the proper learning tools they need!