What Happens When the Doors Close?

August 3, 2000:

“I’m afraid I cannot place Eddie in Red Track A because I need more girls in that class.  It’s a shame because he was in the front of the line and really wanted that class.”  What could I say?  Hardly thinking fast I replied to our new elementary school principal that Eddie was the father and Samantha, a ballet dancing, princess–dress wearing, who I never told about Britney Spears but knows all about her anyway, is and always will be a girl, and, more importantly, the incoming student.  Was there an issue with the boy/girl ratio?

Yes, I am already freaking out about the academic future of my child.  If I were to take advice from our education columnist, Patty Rasmussen, I should join the PTA and have my daughter start learning Spanish now.  My sister-in-law, a grade school teacher, suggested I work in the classroom, “If they let you”.  Now why did she feel the need to add that?  I still chose the latter since I haven’t a clue what goes on in a kindergarten classroom anymore than I know what goes on in a kindergartner’s mind.

My worrying continued when I read a column in The Signal about a school district that was doing so poor that they sent in consultants.

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  “Teachers would just close the doors to the classroom and the kids came out with low test scores.

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”  The consultants did a surprising job, boasting that their influence re-motivated these teachers into working after school and weekends.  I figured I needed to be motivated too.  It’s not all about teacher’s motivation; some of it deftly rests on the motivation of the parents.

I trusted pre-school to teach Sam how to handle herself in a group setting.  To pre-pare her, so to speak, for the real academic life.  In our talks about the changes that will inevitably occur starting real school she, and I, had some concerns.  When will she eat was a big one of mine.  During one of the two short breaks when she finally gets outdoors to play?  On the bus ride back to Town and Country after-school club?  And what’s all this scare-tactic stuff I keep hearing about the multitudes homework?  What the heck is that all about?

“Will they let me scribble-scrabble?”  Sam knew I knew what that meant but she still had to explain, “You know that’s the scribbling we little kids do that the big kids make fun of.  Will they assign that as homework?”  Yes, she uses words like “assign” but she much rather go wild (scribble-scrabble) with a whittled down pencil than slow down and attempt spelling the word.

We bought a new dress for the first day.  We started packing lunches this week.  Dad arranged to be there (and you firefighter wives know how many events these hardworking fire-eaters miss) to drop her off, photograph her, pick her up later and photograph the “after” shots.

So, they will (Ta Da, Oh Sister-in-law of little faith!) let me work in the classroom on my day off!  I hope it won’t be like the last time that I attempted helping out in a classroom as one of my many “volunteer” jobs I undertook in my high school days.  I just couldn’t keep the lower case letters below those shadowy broken lines.  But I thought I made up for it by taping Jolly Rancher hard candies to the papers of the kids that could.  The teacher told me I couldn’t do that.  I figured candy would be a big motivator.  I haven’t a clue what a real teacher does to motivate a class.

Now, Sam’s teacher asked what I would like to do.  I told her I would help with whatever she wanted me to.
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  She turned it back to me again.  I told her I love to read.  (Knowing that I had failed the writing lesson I back tread to one that wouldn’t require anything but verbal skills.)

I think chapter books could be cool.  Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web to start.  It takes me awhile because I like to stop and chat about what we’re reading and what they think of it.  For instance, when Stuart comes up from the bath drain all slimy is he happy or sad?  I also like to ask “what if” questions.  So I may start reading about Stuart and end up going off on a tangent pretty easily.  What might happen to Stuart if he got lost from the Stuart family?  Should he find someone in a uniform?  Look for a mommy, or, a mommy mouse?  If Stuart was asked to help a stranger find a kitten or puppy should he?  Should he accept a Barbie or Pokemon card from a stranger?

Well, didn’t I digress a little?  Be careful moms and pops when that schoolroom door closes and I’m on the inside of it.  Hopefully I won’t cost you a test score.  Hopefully the teacher has a few guidelines that I can follow this time.  And hopefully being on the “inside” will be better than pointing and ignorant finger later.  Especially when Samantha starts receiving her own test scores.