Back to school: Shivers and shakes and tears
Some districts started in the last two weeks, but most students in PPS and surrounding districts have the first day of school today, with kindergarteners coming to class later this week. I dropped off my third-grader, Everett, this morning at Bridger School, where he's in the behavioral classroom. We were a few minutes late; evidently, I'm not as speedy a bicyclist as I remember being last spring. We passed by a few schools on our bike ride; I recognized mamas and papas I knew ushering kids out of cars at Atkinson, and there were so many pedestrians we had to wait at a crosswalk with our bike just for them to clear the corner. Eagerness, first day photos, and cool outfits were everywhere!
Everett was eager for the first day of school, but it's tempered for both of us with concern. He's had a hard time these three-going-on-four years in grade school, and I was a little apprehensive about his move into the classroom -- literally inches away from his old K-2 classroom last year -- because I wonder whether the teacher's style will work for him. But, he was excited to be with the older kids, and separated a bit from some younger students who had challenged his coping skills the year before.
We walked into the classroom to blank faces. "Oh, Everett's going to be next door!" she said. No one had alerted the special ed students to the fact that "the numbers worked out" for third grade to be added back together with K-2. I think the teacher may be nice for him, but he really struggles coping with situations where his expectations do not match reality. His face, as he sat in a seat very near his seat last year, looked crushed.
It's not easy to go back to school as a parent or caretaker of a child who is working extra hard to cope with their social-emotional challenges. You want them to be excited, you join in their hope for the new year, but there's a cloud overhead of blackest fear. Last year I was called a few times a week to pick Everett up early when he wasn't coping appropriately with whatever frustration had called his heart home. I could see a little, I thought, of my own fear in the faces of other parents walking their kids to the door of the mobile unit. Keeping the facade of excitement, anticipation, normalcy, but with the undercurrent. How will it go? Should I rush home to wait by the phone? Will this be the year everything changes for the better?
My sinuses ache as I hope for the best, but his face refracts in my brain, I wish there was a better answer. Most of all, I wish for better communication and social support for special education families; when children don't do well with results that aren't as expected, it would be in the best interests of all involved to get information to parents sooner rather than later. Did the teachers arrive this morning and divvy up the students?
Support for kindergarteners is admirable; the school hosted two back-to-school playdates, a meet-your-teacher picnic, and we'll have a private meeting with her tomorrow. While the notifications usually come achingly near the first day of school, they're still before it, and it's nice to go into the year with a few of my most burning questions answered.
School's hard for all of us. Will my child make friends or "mortal enemies," as Everett describes them? Will I like the teacher, or will he find himself contemplating his role as a mandatory reporter? Will there be too much homework? Will I get to school on time each day? Will my child love his nourishing lunches, or end up complaining of hunger, sped through the cafeteria line and out to a too-short recess? From my perspective, I'd like more and better and earlier communication from the district when they make decisions that affect my child. (Even for regular neighborhood kids, lots of children aren't assigned to teachers until a day or two before school starts.)
How is school going for you? What are you afraid of, hopeful for, crying over? What are you looking forward to? Do you love your child's teacher, or do you long for the one across the hall? Were you on time? Or, like Molly, early? If your kindergartener is starting later this week, how are you holding up? Transitions are enormous fun/excitement/terror/challenge. Let's hope these ones are good for us all.