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.
Please feel free to share stories of your childhood educational experiences.
I also would enjoy hearing about your or others’ kids’ educational experiences.
Tags: education, elementary school, first day of school, first grade, learning, school