My approach to parenting can often be described as lazy. Sometimes I think it is a self-protection measure. I do have a tendency to over-analyze. And I prefer the path of least-resistance if I know it’s taking me to the same location as the other path. I see the tense parents with their hunched up shoulders and their furrowed brows and I wonder why they bother. Shit’s gonna happen whether you’re tense about it or not.
Of course there are things I am tense about, as anyone knows who has read this blog for longer than five minutes. But not school, as it turns out. I am not tense about school.
School is starting in September for my kid. I have mentioned before that we lucked out when we moved to this neighbourhood because we live three blocks from an elementary school and less than one block from a middle school, which it turns out we will be needing because the elementary school is only grade K – 5. I assumed it was K-7. That is how lazy I am – I didn’t know until three days ago that it was only K-5. But see, now I know and it’s too late to do anything about it. Kind of like the whole time we lived here I was assuming because it was a French Immersion school that I could just sign my kid up for French Immersion. Technically true, but I would have had to do it while he was fetal. Oops. No French Immersion for us! No problem!
Perhaps I’m not lazy. Perhaps I am just naive. Certainly I am lucky, and sitting in this lucky place it’s easy to not do much. For the entirety of Trombone’s life I have thought: There is a public school up the road. My child doesn’t have any special needs that I am aware of, therefore the public school up the road should be fine. I will think about it when he is five. Oh look, he’s almost five. I guess I should sign him up for school. So I did, the other day. He is registered for full day kindergarten. Yay, milestone!
I am fully aware that without any first-hand knowledge of The Public School System I am setting myself up for a fall, here. I have heard people complain about the school system (probably because of its “system”ness, not because of any inherent good or badness) but I can’t pay attention because it’s like warning a pregnant lady about toddlerhood. I’m just not there yet. I’m sure you’re right and I’ll tell you so in a couple of years okay?
I am also aware that I approach this from a place of privilege; as a white, middle-class, nuclear family in an upper-middle-class part of town, with my blond, blue-eyed boy who has had all his shots, of course it is easy for me to sign him up for school.
Anyway, with those disclaimers, here is my idealistic view of school, grades K – 7.
I think school should teach kids how to learn. Have them learn their basic math and basic writing and the principles of reading and then set them free in a well-stocked library. Let them follow their interests. Guide, pique, support. I fully think a kid who is curious – which is every kid I’ve ever met, though some have the curiosity ‘beaten’ out of them – and can read and is supported in her interests can do anything. Despite bad teachers. Because of good teachers. I hated math. I don’t remember a single math teacher’s name. I can still do multiplication tables in my head and make change faster than the cash register at the store. I loved English. I remember all my English teachers. (I have a blog! Success is mine! Snort!)
And I think school should teach kids how to get along with their peers. How to play and argue and bond and do it respectfully.
I think school should expose kids to differences; cultures, abilities, opinions. And teach them how to respect those differences.
There should be safety in school. Not terror, not diminishing, not shame.
Yes this is ideal. And it doesn’t account for variables like: funding. Quality and satisfaction of staff. Kids who need more attention than others and don’t get it. I still remember that kid called Sean who used to sit behind me in grade 2 and hit me on the head with a ruler. I still remember his snaky blue eyes. But hey – life is long. School is only part of it.
Even if, in two years, I have to eat my words, I want to start out by expecting the best.
When I say I expect the best, I don’t mean I expect perfection. I mean I expect that there will be mishaps and apologies and learning experiences. It is, after all, school. And a school is a building full of people, not robots. Teachers are human beings doing jobs. I know a few teachers. Every single one does it because of a calling, not because it pays well and has great benefits. (I hear you all laughing) And my kid is a human being doing his job; learning. He’ll screw up. Some teachers might screw up. Probably not nearly as often as I screw up. And yet, I didn’t research my own ability to parent before I just started in on doing it. Imperfectly.
I intend to go into this thinking – and expecting – that everything is going to be fine. Unless I have to sell chocolate almonds. Then we might have some trouble.