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Waiting to exhale

August 19, 2010

Yesterday I met AJ in front of his school. I walked up from home. He drove in with The Boy Across the Street on their way back from swimming. There was a small crowd and I sat and talked to some parents while the kids pressed their noses against the glass of the lobby. A small girl with glasses came running up to me to say hi. I had taught her her first violin lesson last Friday. She used to go to the school that closed, but is very excited to be coming to AJ’s school next year for second grade.

A murmur of excitement went up from the kids crowded around the doors, and then sounds of disappointment when it turned out that it wasn’t the list coming, but someone cleaning the glass on the inside, probably to make sure the lists were as legible as possible when they did arrive (although no attempts were made to remove the noseprints on the outside of the windows). But soon the lists followed. One by one, starting with kindergarten, they were taped to the door. AJ’s class list was the very one taped up. He got the teacher I was hoping for…and the one he was hoping not to get. He is with his cohort from the now defunct gifted program and none of the kids who tend to inspire him to behave badly are in his class. There’s still no way around the size of the class, but it’s 32 not the 34 we’d been told, so that’s something. I still don’t know how they’ll all fit in the classroom.

AJ was a little sad on the way home. He’s okay with his friends being in other classes — he’ll see them at lunch and recess. But he’s worried about his teacher. She has a reputation with the kids for being mean. The stories that I’ve heard are all fairly implausible. “She throws chalk at kids’ heads!” “Last year, she kept Abe in for recess because he made one mistake on a math problem!” “I heard she once stapled a kid.” From the parents, you hear totally different things. “My son learned more in her class than in any other class he’s had.” “She’s the only teacher who really prepares kids for middle school.” “She may not have as much patience with kids as most elementary teachers, but she could be teaching high school.”

If nothing else, I am anxious to meet her to see what all the hype is about.

On our walk home, I asked AJ what he was worried about and he told me some of the stories he had heard. “Have you met her?” I asked. He hadn’t, although he knew who she was because her class was across the hall from his third grade room. “When people tell a lot of stories about someone, they are very seldom all true. Don’t believe stories like that until you’ve met her for yourself. Then you can make up your own mind.”

“But R told me she kept him in for recess!”

“You may not know the whole story. I think she’s going to be a tough teacher. I think she’s going to challenge you. And I think she’s going to get you ready for middle school. And I’m pretty sure if you’re following the rules, you’re not going to get in trouble.”

“It’s so easy for C to be good. It’s going to be harder for me.” C is AJ’s partner in crime from the gifted program. He’s one of those kids who just thrives on order. He’s quiet and concentrates well. I don’t mean he’s a goody-goody. He’s not at all. But sitting still and focusing does come more easily to him than it does to AJ, at least at the moment.

Then AJ said, “But I’ll just have to try really hard.”

“I know you can do it. You don’t have to be perfect. Just do your best. Besides, I think if you want to learn, she’s really going to help you. I found a website she and her class made a few years ago where they were participating in a national project collecting weather data. Their page said they were doing it because one of the kids in their class was really interested in weather. I think any teacher who creates a class project around the things her students are interested in is probably a good teacher, don’t you?”

“Do you think we could do that this year?” asked AJ, who is a budding meteorologist.

“Why don’t you ask her?”

About this point in the conversation, one of our neighbors came up behind us. He’s a really nice 5th grader with a sister in AJ’s grade. He and AJ have played sports together. He had overheard us talking.

“You have Mrs. D?” he asked.

“Yeah,” said AJ.

“You are so lucky. I really wanted Mrs. D, but I got Mrs. B. She was okay, but Mrs. D is great.”

AJ didn’t say anything, but he started smiling.

“Why did you want Mrs. D?” I asked him.

“Because she does really cool projects and you learn a lot.”

“Those are some good reasons.”

So tomorrow morning, I have a meeting with the famous Mrs. D. It’s the meeting where I risk making myself a pain in the ass just by asking for it and spend the entire meeting trying to make up for it. But hopefully we’ll all get along. This year’s going to be an adventure in many ways. But I think we’re all ready to get started.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. eleanorio permalink
    August 19, 2010 3:07 pm

    Lucky AJ.

  2. August 19, 2010 4:09 pm

    Deep breaths, all of you. She’s probably worried too and all three of you will be relieved that none of your worries will come to fruition.

    Pook has 26 in his class of 4th graders, but I’m psyched b/c she teaches math & science and the teacher across the hall (who I also like) teaches the kids language arts and social studies. I love that they get the practice moving to teachers who can specialize and are therefore probably better at what they do. AND both teachers have already agreed to teach 5th grade next year! A third teacher in the 4th grade has a “self contained” group. I’m not positive how they were chosen but I suspect the class changes were expected to be harder for those kids.

    Bug’s 1st grade class has 26 too….

  3. freshhell permalink
    August 19, 2010 6:45 pm

    Whew! Good news.

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