August 21st, 2006



This morning at Karin's first day of first grade, we parents stood in a line along the back wall, while our excited children found their randomly placed names on the school desks throughout the room and sat down. Each child had a pencil and eraser with their names written on them and a small blue plastic box filled with shiny new crayons. The boxes had a piece of masking tape stripped across the cover and each child immediately grabbed their pencil and plotted their name in large capital letters across the box. The teacher introduced herself and her 2 assistants and went through a quick synopsis of the daily routine and what we can expect, both parent and child, from the school year.

Then she opened the ledger on the desk and proceeded to go through it child by child, checking off first name, last name, address, telephone number and birthday, while the parents twitched and looked with increasing agitation at their watches. Karin and one other little boy were the only ones in the class of 24 7-year-olds who knew their addresses, phone numbers and birthdays.

The teacher and her 2 assistants handed out papers to each child; one lady walking slowly up and down each row and giving them over individually to each eager or distracted hand, one stopping at the first child in the front of each row and handing over a pile of papers with instructions to "take one and pass the rest, pass them ALL back, NO I mean KEEP ONE for yourself." After a confused and flurrious few minutes each child had 4 pieces of paper: 2 to bring home and fill out, 1 detailing the lunch schedule for the next 2 months and 1 with the weekly schedule and this week's homework lesson (homework! in first grade!).

And then, and here's the part where my jaw dropped, one of the assistants took the floor and shushed the children and addressed the parents with the following speech: "We just want to take a few minutes to emphasize that we need to keep in mind that things are different nowadays than when you —*gesturing at the row of adults*— were in school. This generation has TV games and computers and much more leisure time and playtime than we did, and they're bound to think that school is boring. So, parents, when your kids come home and complain that school is boring, and well, it need to be prepared to encourage them and give them a pep talk so they can get through it."

Excuse me?

Here is where my voice goes up and I start to type in ALL CAPS.

What the hell? Here is a TEACHER, on the FIRST day of school, in FRONT OF the kids, explicitly setting the expectation in their little spongelike craniums that school is boring and dull and something to be endured. I repeat: WHAT THE HELL?! I don't even know where to start to combat that kind of attitude in someone who has my child's imagination and joy in learning in her care.

Am I over-reacting? Am I being too American? Because I don't think I am. I think I need to go blazing in a big ball of attitude and make damn sure that all 3 of those teachers understand the gravity of the casual disregard she gave to education, the school itself AND our children.