Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In Which We Are All Woefully Inadequate

Tonight we went to the Open House at Thomas's elementary school.

Bear in mind two things:  1, we are in the south; and 2, we are in the south.

The evening opens with all of us sitting at little benches in the cafeteria, while the principal, Mr. Coker, talks self-importantly into a microphone.  It is difficult to take this man seriously when you stop to realize they actually have a paddling policy at this elementary school.  We had to sign a waiver to get Thomas out of being PHYSICALLY STRUCK by his own principal if he misbehaved in a severe enough fashion. 

Mr. Coker likes to hear himself talk, so he does, for several minutes.  He calls the teachers "ladies" and "girls" and beams like a benevolent, dictatorial father figure.  Then he instructs the parents to be no more than thirty minutes, tells us to walk "in an orderly fashion" to the classrooms like we're all about to stam-fucking-pede, and then waits for the applause, which is conveniently begun by a woman in the audience whom I suspect strongly is the president of the PTA.

Thomas's classroom looks much like any other of the first-grade variety -- lots of color, lots of labeling, a lot of charts.  His teacher, Mrs. Foster, is overweight and reminds me somewhat of an unpleasant fifth-grade teacher my older sister once had, which isn't a good sign. 

She makes us sit at the desks, which are about twelve inches from the floor.  Thomas crowds into the chair next to me and begins to draw on my hand with a ball-point pen.  (Thomas:  "This is a good guy knocking a bad guy over the head with a bat.  See, these are his brains.")

Mrs. Foster tells us, dazzlingly, of "higher-level spatial learning," which I suspect is total bullshit jargon, and goes on to say she doesn't believe in homework.  She assigns a weekly packet, but it's sort of to be done "whenever you have the time."  This raises Alarm Bell Number One.  I raise my eyebrows at my husband, who raises his in return.  The rest of the time, she explains, we are to "use our resources" to instruct our kids in the list of skills she includes in the weekly newsletters. 

(I should note here that this is our "resource" drawer. Shit.)

Alarm Bell Number Two comes when she points out the clusters of desks, and says each cluster has one child who is solely responsible for getting all the other little kids in the cluster to clear their desks, get in line, take out materials, etc at the right times.  This seems like kind of a lot to ask of a six-year-old.  Her eyes gleam a bit as she says, "These selected children are our leaders.  They set an example."   Even Thomas rolls his eyes when she says this, which tells me a lot.  And also, fuck anyone who decides who the leaders are within one week of class.  I want to ask if these leaders will change, but I don't want to look like a whiner.  Particularly since the woman sitting across from me with her son sits up a bit straighter and beams at her child, who presumably will be responsible for correcting my kid's aberrant behaviors.

Mrs. Foster talks about the reading curriculum, and that's when That Parent speaks up.  There is always a That Parent in every class.  She raises her hand and says, "What if your child is reading far beyond the curriculum?  I mean, what if she's reading, you know, totally independently?".  Mrs. Foster looks pleased and says she'll tailor anything that needs to be changed for "more advanced children."  Ding ding ding, Alarm Bell Number Three.

Another parent raises his hand and asks about hair feather extensions, which are popular with little girls lately.  They're basically just clips with feathers on them, but Mrs. Foster looks solemn and says that apparently Mr. Coker has decided these are inappropriate for little girls.  And then she looks vaguely in our direction as she says, "Little boys are also not allowed to have mohawks."  Alarm Bell Number Four:  We already have a strike against us for this one.

After the presentation, she talks to us randomly and individually as we're getting our things together and trying like hell to get out of the tiny seats.  When she gets to us, I mention to her that Thomas still has some trouble paying attention and focusing, because he's right at the cutoff age and therefore he's kind of young.  And I swear, I can see her inwardly sigh, and she says, looking kinda hard at me, "Mrs. H, They all have that problem."  Aaaand here we have Alarm Bell Number Five.

Now, I am not six years old, but I have never, ever in my life wanted so bad to kick someone square in the damn shins.

Thomas seems to like her well enough, so I will bite right through my tongue if I have to in order to make it through this school year.  But I'll be damned if that child isn't doing some form of homework at night.  "I don't believe in homework."  Is she kidding?

You know what nobody ever tells you when you're pregnant and thinking fondly of raising children?  That children really aren't the difficult part at all.  The really tough part of being a parent is restraining yourself from raising your damn hand and asking, "Is there a paddling policy for teachers?".


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