Finally we have reached the end of the first week of school and it has been a bit of a rollercoaster in this house. Not for the kids, but for me. They were all eager to head off, ready half an hour early, backpacks on and chattering incessantly from the very first morning. That eagerness has given way to some complaints and whining, caused by what I know to be over-tiredness. It’s hard to go from spending the last week playing Minecraft constantly to having gym class every day AND hiking up and down the four stories that comprise our massive, turn of the century school building. Oh yeah, and it has been HOT. About 3o with the humidex every single day. Did I mention the school isn’t air-conditioned?
My own little rollercoaster journey started when I picked them up after the first day of school and found out that Mini Me was not in the bottom half of a grade 5/6 split, but instead in the top half of a 4/5 split. In case they don’t have split classes where you are, I can tell you that it’s a pretty common occurence here in Ontario. And here is the where I have a bit of a crisis on my hands.
Mini Me is great at the whole school thing. He pulls fantastic grades, he is cooperative and studious and respectful. Teachers love him and I have never heard anything more negative than ‘he needs to speak up more.’ So, all the way home that first day I’m wondering why the heck a kid who performs above his grade level in virtually every subject would be placed in a grade 5 class that is half populated by grade fours. I mean, the common stereotype is that you put the high achievers in a split where they will be exposed to the grade above them, not below. What the heck?
Welcome to my identity crisis. Was I being a snob? Was I underestimating the teacher and his other classmates? Was I one of ‘those parents’ who complains and raises a stink about stupid things? I let Muppet know, and to my great relief his reaction was also a resounding WTF?
So, we are meeting with the teacher on Monday after school to talk about how this whole thing is going to work out and if we’re not happy with the answers we get, we will be approaching the principal to change his classroom. Causing a stink at the school isn’t something I thought we would ever have to do and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that this may be the case, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I realize that this isn’t about Mini Me completely. It is also about me.
I came from a family where neither parent ever finished high school. There was never any talk of working hard to achieve your dreams. They never spoke of my sister and I going on to higher education or fulfilling careers. They were happy that we did well and got good grades but by high school, they were pretty much out of their depth. In my entire grade school career, I remember only two times when my parents ever got actively involved in my education.
The first was when the principal told my mother that she should discourage me from being a journalist (something I had wanted to be since about the 3rd grade) because I was too ‘quiet’ and ‘nice.’ He felt I would make a better english teacher. My mother recounted the conversation to me just like that and then the matter was never brought up again. I don’t know what she thought about it. She never told me, but it has always stayed with me.
The second was when I was placed in the top half of a grade 4/5 split. My father called the school. This was the man who never went to a single graduation or school play or awards ceremony, but he called the school and told them that his daughter was to be put in a straight grade 5 or into a 5/6. They moved me the next day. That was the very first time I remember my parents acknowledging that I was smart.
So, can you say baggage? I don’t want to have to speak to the teacher. I don’t want to go to the principal and demand a change if I think it’s necessary. But, you know what? I will do it for my kid. Because he is smart and because I want him to know what it’s like to have challenges academically. I want him to know that we have expectations of him to do well and to make something of his future. We want him to know that if he works hard, he can have a bright future doing something that he truly loves and that he finds fulfilling. And I want the school to know that just because he is ‘nice’ and ‘quiet’ that he is not to be underestimated. I am going to give him what my parents were never able to give me.