One of the blogs that I recently found was the Things I Can't Say blog. I believe that this was one I found through The Mom Pledge, but I could be wrong. Days kind of melt together lately. Regardless of how I found her, I'm enjoying reading her. Today, as I was using FeedSquares to read my blogs, I came across her Pour Your Heart Out feature. She has rules for your participation, which you can find here.
So here's my first step into the PMHO pool. For this week, it will be my Wildcard Wednesday post as well. But in future, I'm hoping to pour my heart out with Shell weekly.
Today, I went to the school that Teddy will be going to next year so I could enroll him in kindergarten. I've driven by the school numerous times. It's about 5 minutes from our apartment and on our way into Nashville, up to our preferred library, to a lot of our favorite shopping spots... It's a place I see regularly from where it's placed.
Until today, I hadn't realized how old the school looks. Some of it could have been because we went on a gray, rainy day. But some of it, I'm sure, is because it IS old. It's a fairly large, sprawling school. You can only see a small portion of it from the road outside. It was only when I pulled into the parking lot, looking for a place to park, that I realized how big the property was. And along with the school building itself, they have several portables that we saw kids going into or coming out of.
We had to ring a bell to be let in, and we needed to go through the office to get to the rest of the school. It both pleases me and fills me with dread. On the one hand, I'm glad there are safety measures in place in case some maniac decides that he needs to start shooting up the local elementary school. But on the other hand, I hate the fact that the kids have to be locked in like this. I continually compare what I'm experiencing being a mother of an incoming kindergartener with what I experienced as a kindergartener myself. I don't remember the school being locked while I was in school - in any grade. But then again, I was in kindergarten over 30 years ago. Things change, I guess.
The woman that lead us to the person processing the enrollment applications was pleasant, telling us a bit about the school, letting us know that we were passing through the kindergarten wing and gave us other bits of info on our 2 minute walk. The classrooms looked pleasant, but I didn't see any of the kids in the classrooms. I really didn't have a lot of chance to look.
Inside the school felt old as well. Not bad, but old. Everything looked safe and secure, but you could tell that the school had been around for awhile. And maybe that isn't a bad thing. Because an older school has a feeling of history about it. While filing out the information for Teddy, the lady told us a bit about the school in generally, a few of which shocked me. The school is the largest in all of the Metro school system. There are 10 different kindergarten teachers. Not all the kindergarten classes are in the same wing, though most of them are. I didn't think to ask how many kids were in each class, but I probably should have. There are over 1,000 kids in the K-4 school.
A school that big... an ELEMENTARY school that big... surprises me. I know it shouldn't. I know, intellectually, that most schools are not like the one I went to until I left 9th grade. That school had 2 kindergarten classes when I was there (and has since gone down to one class per grade because of declining enrollment). If I'd stayed, my graduating class would have been a little more than 30. Maybe 35 at most. I knew everyone in kindergarten. It was the way things were. Teddy will be lucky if he knows all the kids in his classroom. It's huge, in my mind.
Then there's the school lists/dress codes/etc. Again, when I was going to school 30 years ago, we didn't have a dress code. We wore whatever clothes our parents chose to send us to school in. When I was younger, it was cute dresses or cute pants and shirts. As I got older, it was jeans and t-shirts. Sometimes we could even wear shorts. Even when I moved to Florida and went to a larger school, we could wear jeans or short, t-shirts, whatever colors we wanted. The only stipulation was that we couldn't wear anything that promoted beer or tobacco, held profanity or bordered on the obscene. Which made sense in a school setting. Now, the kids have to wear navy or khaki pants (or skirts for the girls) and a handful of colors of polo shirts (and shirts MUST have a collar). Again, in some ways, I can understand it. If no one is allowed to wear designer labels to school, it puts all kids on the same footing. But you can still tell the difference between inexpensive school clothes and the ones that cost a bit more.
When it comes to what we need to provide, I can't help but shake my head. I accept that schools, because of budgets, can't afford to supply all the students the way they could when I was in elementary school. And I have no problem with providing more beyond the paper/pencils/glue that I remember buying yearly for school. But not only are they requiring that the kids bring in glue, but it has to be a specific brand. And sometimes, these brands are difficult to find. For example, they need a Mead Primary Journal with 1/2 page for pictures and 1/2 page dotted writing paper. From what the lady that was enrolling us said, they're incredibly difficult to find, only showing up at Wal-Mart at the beginning of the school year and at Office Max off and on throughout the year. (I suspect I may be picking some up through Amazon, since I know that I can get them there.) They need dry erase markers, and they need to be Expo markers. And the list goes on. (If you're curious, here's a link to the school's supply list.) She also told us that we'll probably have to fill out versions of the same paperwork we filled out today three or four more times, we should get more letters from the school with expanded and revised supply lists and who knows what else. Why do they have to keep making changes and why do certain things need to be so specific? I understand the primary journal, or at least the type of journal. But when it comes to having Elmers glue sticks vs Ross, Scholastic or even store brand, I just don't get it.
I was hoping that they'd have a before-school meeting of kindergarten students, their parents and the teachers but that's not something that is in their plan. The teacher will call us to introduce his/herself and there's an open house the first week, but neither Teddy nor I will see his teacher for the first time until he walks into school that first day. Another difference from when I was in school, where I remember meeting the kindergarten teachers and several of my classmates in either the late spring or early summer. But maybe my school was different in that respect. I think I'll be driving Teddy to school the first day - it's a half day and I do want a chance to meet his teacher if I can. But I guess that part will be what it will be.
Rich and I talked a bit about Teddy actually in school today, and some of our worries about him being in school. It's not the academics that I'm worried about. Teddy's a smart kid and she catches on to things really quickly. He has a bit harder time with the more dexterous things like writing and crafts, but he does keep trying. So that... I don't worry at all. Instead, I worry about his being bullied.
Teddy's a friendly kid, and a sensitive one. Whenever we're out somewhere, he goes up to people and says, "Hi, my name is Teddy. My real name is Theadore, but Teddy is my nickname." He makes friends on the playground when we go out and always find someone to pal around with. But he's also a bit overweight, which kids can be cruel about. He still has a bit of the "baby talk", not able to enunciate all of his words as well as he should. And he cries very easily. Things affect him more than they maybe should, and he'll cry or get upset about it. I love that about him, but having been on the receiving end of teases and taunts through much of school, I know how hard it can be hearing that you're a cry baby from other kids. Granted, he hasn't had any of that in PDO. And he's never had a problem when we've been at a playground or a park around other kids. So maybe my worrying is for nothing. But how much do kids really change, and how hard is this going to be for my sensitive child?
The worst of it is that knowledge that if he DOES get teased because of any of the things that make him who he is, I can't do anything about it. I can't go in and talk to these kids - it would only hurt Teddy more. I can try to help Teddy find ways that will keep it from bothering him, but he's Rich and my kid. There will always be a small part of him that hurts because of thoughtless words. I can let him know how special that his Daddy and I think he is, and keep supporting him and encouraging him when I see him doing good. But Mom and Dad supporting you only goes so far when you want the acceptance of your peers.
So I worry about him going to school in mid-August. I worry that the teachers will be forced to teach to the test and that his imagination won't be given a good chance to expand. I worry that he'll be picked on and teased. I worry that school will be a horrible experience rather than a wonderful one. And even though I know he'll have a lot of wonderful experiences and opportunities (like music programs, visiting pumpkin patches and apple orchards, having a culturally diverse class), I worry because I'm a mom and it's what I do.