Friday, August 22, 2008

8/21/08 First of First!

Off to school! Poor kid doesn't seem to mind that I send him in this dorky "Class of 2020 shirt." Incredibly, no one gets the joke.

It was all pretty straightforward; Gabriel knew where his room was and led me there. I chatted a bit with other parents, some of whom I vaguely recognized but couldn't possibly place their names or their kids' names, which are mostly these long lovely elegant Indian names with multiple syllables sewn together in such a way that my Western brain will never keep together. I was raised with Amys and Jeffs.

It seems the Cupertino school district's only African-American first-grader is in his class. Caleb and Gabriel are doing their part to create diversity in this otherwise mostly homogenous class. I chatted a bit with Caleb's parents, they're very very nice. All the parents are really nice.

The teacher surveys the troops. No doubt about it, this is the teacher we saw at the first-grade orientation who was pointed out as giving daily homework!

I'm swinging wildly about this whole school thing again. Daily homework, that's out of control for a first-grader. But then Tonya told us two of her girls had had this teacher, and Tonya said she's awesome. She seems highly regarded by the other teachers, and experienced. And she seemed really nice. OK, I feel better.

Then I see the kids sitting at tables facing the front, two to a table. Are they really ready in first grade to be sitting lecture-style in a classroom? It irks me. They're just little kids! But then, I'm fairly certain my first-grade class was arranged that way too, with a reading corner (which I used to trap boys in to kiss). Back then, parents didn't fret about things like table orientation.

Is this really the right thing for him? If I can find fault in this, couldn't I find fault in just about any school setup? And any decisions or changes or doubts I have now aren't just about Gabriel -- I have to think about the other two also. And I really don't know what to think about them.

I wonder what junior-high-school teachers have to say about McCauliffe (the whole-learning warm-n-fuzzy school) kids versus Collins kids, and heck, Faria (the full-on straight academics school) kids. And then, I wonder what the high school teachers have to say. I'll bet by high school they can't tell who went where. Not that that doesn't matter in other ways, of course.

Overall, I tend to think that kids are going to succeed if they're inclined to succeed and have good support at home. Certainly the kind of early schooling they get will influence it, but it won't make or break them in the end. A whole-learning approach school could help ordered Gabriel with out-of-the-box thinking, or it could deprive him of the structure he thrives in. Conversely, whole-learning could nurture Julian's imagination, but wouldn't develop his putzy lazy side. Julian's very social in pre-K, chit-chatting away instead of doing his work. Ah, the torch has been passed -- just like his mom!

But all I can do is speculate, and agonize on major decisions based only on speculation. Maybe I should just let it go -- we're in a middle-of-the-road situation, Gabriel's basically happy, and this is our life. If I need to tweak and meddle in someone's life, it should probably be my own.

Minor disaster after school: Gabriel didn't go to the CDC as I'd told him several times to do. Instead he told his teacher I was coming to get him, and when I didn't show up, she brought him to the school office. The CDC folks called me to check, then found him in the school office. Lots of CDC-bound first-graders got confused today, apparently! In kindergarten, the CDC staff collects them straight from the room. Not first grade -- they're on their own.

But boy did I feel bad, thinking of Gabriel standing by the door, looking out for me, waiting hopefully, disappointment creeping in with each passing minute. It's that same sinking feeling at an airport, watching a nearly empty baggage carousel going around with one or two suitcases that you anxiously check each time, even though you know they're not yours. Then the dreaded thunk....they've stopped the carousel. No bags. No hope. No Mom.

Gabriel went through this the last day of school too, and now again the first day of school. This rots. I should have been there to pick him up today. There will come a time when he doesn't care. But I always will.


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