Having prior experience – painfully learned, in most cases – of new years and new procedures, I did ask for information ahead of time. So we’re armed with knowledge on headings for papers (name, date, etc. and where they needs to go), what kinds of folders are used, organizational systems, and so forth.
The idea being, of course, that we’ll already know how to do a few things, which will soften the crazy learn-everything-in-just-a-few-days syndrome that all schools seem to favor.
Great theory, right?
And yet, we do this every year, and every year we’re still surprised with new skills and new abilities that we haven’t even thought about. New things that the other children have been doing and growing into all summer.
In third grade, for instance, the classroom introduced white boards. These are small squares sporting an erasable white surface that can be written on, then lifted up for the teacher – and the whole class – to see. Very handy for math quizzes and questions.
That took us only a few weeks to master. Write answer – just the answer, not a doodle, and not too large, either – and lift up in the air. Yes, cap the marker. No, don’t draw on anything else with that marker! And I’m sorry, yes, that marker does smell bad. No, don’t wave that thing around!
Prior knowledge and practice would have been fantastic.
In fourth grade, the other kids were masters of multi-tasking. All of a sudden, students were expected to handle reading the textbook, writing the answers, and listening to the lecture at the same time. Even occasionally answering verbal questions while filling in the blanks. Oh, and of course everyone needed to keep up and be at the same point in their work.
Fourth grade was not a good year for us.
So it’s with some trepidation that we face the new year. Yes, we know where and how to fill in name and date. We’ve been working on breaking tasks down into easy steps, and on showing work on math problems. We’ve also been practicing capitalization (don’t even ask about that one… it’s about handwriting and rebellion, an unusually potent combination).
But what is it we don’t know about yet? What danger is lurking around the corner, ready to shock and frustrate and terrify us?
Well, last year went really well. Really, amazingly well. After petrifying anxiety and fear – which I tried very hard to conceal from my family – the school ended up treating my son well, and we saw him grow and learn more than he had in years. It was like a time compression; in the course of one year, he made up three or four years’ worth of mental growth.
It could happen again.
So I’m not going to let myself be paralyzed with fear. My son is bright and capable. He will know a few people in his class. He’ll be starting drama, which he loves, and continuing a speech pragmatics class, which he also enjoys. He’ll know how to label his papers, and he’s already been to the school to check it out ahead of time.
Plus, he’s learned how to play chess. He’s been working on cartooning. Typing skills are improving, and his sense of humor – always good – has blossomed. Conversational ability and sportsmanship are at an all-time high.
Maybe – just maybe – they won’t be the ones to surprise us. Maybe, this year, he’ll be the one to surprise everyone else.