School Number 2, Now Number 1

Posted on: August 27th, 2014 by

She didn’t cry when I kissed her goodbye.
But later I wept.

On Monday, Ari officially became a first grader at a school unfamiliar to us both.

All day I stared at the phone in dread, wondering when I would get the phone call, you know, the your-kid-is-hysterical-please-come-to-the-school one.

Thankfully, the phone didn’t ring.

After a deluge of tears, I spent the rest of the day in full suspense, wondering how my daughter was faring. Was she confused about school procedures? Was her teacher, whom I met for a nanosecond, still nice? Was Ari making friends? Was she fitting in? Did she lose her lunch money?

And, of course, the overarching questions: What was she learning each moment of the day? And was she being pushed to accomplish too much?

As you, my readers, know, Ari’s kindergarten experience at a private school last year was stressful, and learning was not fun for her. She had a kind teacher, but not a kind amount of homework and enormous pressure to succeed. I initially chose the school because I felt she would get a top-notch education there. I was impressed with the institution during a walk-through, a mini-orientation that failed to mention the amount of pressure the school put on its students.

Still, I made the decision to send her to this school, reassuring myself with the mantra throughout the tumultuous school year: “Ari has phenomenal educational opportunities here.” And she did.

And in reassuring myself about Ari’s high-caliber education, I lost sight of what defines a quality education.

Steroid School gave a huge dose of education but did not instill in Ari a passion for learning. Instead, schoolwork became a chore to be tolerated. Her eyes became dull with oppression rather than lit up with excitement.

So we made a school-switch to the local public school only a half block away from where we live.

The night before her first day at this new school, she was understandably nervous. But she admitted that, with Steroid School, she felt “pushed too much.” And I learned a powerful lesson during this conversation: that kids have a better handle on their progress than adults perhaps give them credit for.

When I met Ari after school, her eyes were lit with a passion for learning. She couldn’t stop talking about how fun school was and begged me to allow her to go to second grade there! She was happy, made a friend, and was excited about this experience. Later that night, I wept with relief and happiness.

I am an educator by profession, but from time to time I needed to be reminded that when learning is fun, students are more likely to connect to their education. And I will always enjoy my child’s excited eyes.

The new classroom

The new classroom

Ari's hook

Ari’s hook

Please feel free to share stories of your childhood educational experiences.

I also would enjoy hearing about your or others’ kids’ educational experiences.

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6 Responses to School Number 2, Now Number 1

  1. Catherine had this to say about that:

    I am so glad to hear she had a wonderful time. That is how learning should be. :)

  2. Elizabeth J. had this to say about that:

    I hope Ari has a good year and finds learning is indeed fun. My three are raised, but I remember well each of those first days of school. I think mom was more nervous than the kids.
    BTW, I think I was even more nervous when my youngest had her second “first day of kindergarten” this year, only 19 years after her first one. This time as the kindergarten teacher!

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for your kind wishes. I so appreciate them. It’s so difficult to raise one child, I’m in awe of people who go through the school experience, homework, and projects with more than one child.

      And congratulations to you and your daughter on her first day as a kindergarten teacher! What a wonderful profession: teachers at elementary schools have so much influence over their students.

  3. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I am so happy that you and Ari are both feeling so good about that first day. I’m sure her confidence level, and yours, will keep on growing every day. It’s so exciting and first grade seems so much more ‘official’ for some reason. Like now, let’s get really serious. Although, it sounds like Ari’s K experience was pretty darn serious. And the mom worry thing never subsides. Now, much like Elizabeth mentioned in her comment, I am worrying about Peter (son #one) as he starts his second year of teaching US history in TX. That first year was quite stressful for him and for me too! Some things never change. I hope the year is wonderful for you both. And I loved your phrase, Steroid School. Very funny, but kinda sad too. Terrific post, Beth! Thank you.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your kind thoughts. We are both happier! I agree that first grade seems more serious than kindergarten. But Ari is now confident and opens up more to me about school.

      Wow, it seems like just yesterday Peter was starting to teach history. I can understand why you worry — I think parents never stop worrying about their children. But I’m sure he has so much talent, and I know he has a great mom!

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