Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's The First Day, Not The Last Chance

Being an old hand at this, I find the first day of school rather amusing. My children who won't stir from bed before 9am during the summer are all awake by 7:15am. Not just awake, but dressed, hair combed, and eager to help with breakfast. Oh, for the excitement to last past this week...but I know that, faster than the first stain can appear on those new backpacks, we'll be back to sleepy, grumpy kids who must be prodded awake at 7:20, 7:25, and 7:30. Oh well.

All of my kids picked their first day outfits, laying them on their floors with varying degrees of care last night. My eldest, now a 6th grader, chose a cute halter dress her mom bought this summer. Paired with sneakers, of course, and a jacket - that sleeveless dress isn't so wonderful when it's only 60-degrees out. She spent almost 20 minutes curling her hair, and looked so incredibly grown up. Too bad it all backfired - she called in a panic at 9am, apparently today was P.E. and she needed pants. Oh well.

My sons went with more casual "cool" looks. The 3rd grader wore his favorite silver shirt with one orange stripe, his brother chose a batman shirt and batman jeans for his first day in 1st grade. I suspect both fared better during recess than the older sister.

And our youngest, Miss Kindergarten, wore pink. Pink sundress. Pink cardigan (that cold morning again). Pink sneakers. Pink crown barrettes. Pink backpack. Purple socks (thank goodness!). Hubby joked that she looked like a bottle of Pepto - a cute one, of course.

So after the required group picture, we six headed for the school. The loaded backpacks slowed the kids to a normal pace, so hubby and I enjoyed the chance to talk to our excited children. Miss Kindergarten was definitely most excited (saying a lot), even though this morning was just a quick 20 minute "meet the teacher" time. (Tomorrow is her first full day) We quickly joined the sidewalk full of other families - said hi to neighbors, pet MoMo the mascot cat, and filed into the school. Got the three oldest kids settled into classrooms, then it was time for Kindergarten.

With so many siblings in school already, Miss Kindergarten is a pro. She knows her teacher's name, and remembers what room is hers too. We walked in and immediately started unloading school supplies, while finding our cubby and locating the name tag on the desk. The teacher, Mrs Brown, welcomed her and the other 3 kids there (calling them by name, from memory...I think she cheated somehow). Then, the kids were set to drawing pictures of themselves while we parents were handed enormous packets.

(Stupid fundraiser stuff was handed out TODAY! But I digress...)

After a quick survey revealed few changes from last year's packet, Hubby and I were left with some 10 minutes to kill. We introduced ourselves to the Aide, met a few of the parents, roamed the room looking around. I noticed one set of parents had captured the teacher's attention - a mom in green plaid, talking at length, and a dad with little to say. Mrs Green Plaid was holding forth on her incredibly gifted son, making sure Mrs Brown understood just how incredibly gifted this boy was.


Miss Kindergarten walked over to show me her picture - nicely colored (mostly in the lines) showing her blue dress she plans to wear tomorrow. (Accuracy - yes!) She'd even printed her own name. I started to direct her to Mrs Brown, but realized Mrs Green Plaid was still hogging her time. "My son went to a Montessori Preschool - they have so much academic merit, you know. He knows his letters, can sound out some words, and can even do addition and subtraction. It's so important to really challenge him..."

As Mrs Brown launched into her description of the general class syllabus (with a look on her face like she was repeating herself), Miss Kindergarten and I decided to meander over to the wall display.

We read that Monday is Music day, Wednesday is PE day, and Thursday is Library day. We read a poem about the months of the year. Other than confusing Tuesday and Thursday, Miss Kindergarten did it all herself.

Feeling just a touch smug, I walked back towards Mrs Brown. Our 20 minute session was over, and we needed to leave so the next group of kids could come in. (Besides, I had that annoying WORK thing) Mrs Green Plaid was still attempting to drill into Mrs Brown's head just how special her boy was...while the boy in question cowered behind his mom. And I realized...he had been there all along.

Instead of exploring his new classroom, instead of find the toys, walking on the alphabet mat, noticing the cow skull, and meeting his classmates...this poor boy had been stuck behind his mother, at best bored out of his mind. And she'd missed her chance too, missed being able to walk through the room, meet the aide, talk to some other parents. All because she wanted, heck needed, to force the knowledge of how wonderful her kid is into the teacher's brain.

What a shame - it was so unnecessary. A good teacher discovers each kid's abilities and talents - and yes, weaknesses - rather quickly once they are in the classroom. We've found that out with all of our kids. Heck, teachers find hidden gifts that parents don't even know about. So Mrs Green Plaid only deprived herself and her son of an enjoyable first day. What a shame.

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