“Goodnight, couch potato!”
I stopped on my way out the door just long enough to turn and give a smirk smeared with a grin. “Couch potato indeed,” I thought. Just because I’d almost fallen asleep while playing cars with the kids earlier this evening doesn’t make me a couch potato. I biked to work, wrestled with all the first-day problems that consume a teacher’s initial planning periods, taught five lessons straight, and biked home in a fairly substantial rain — couch potato indeed. Still, I just gave L a smile mixed with a slight smirk, wished her goodnight again, and headed out.
L had a rough first day in a lot of ways. Now in third grade, she heads upstairs to the classrooms that house the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Assigned a teacher known for being strict, she fretted throughout the evening about the news that they will have assigned lunch seats starting tomorrow. “Last year, we only got assigned seats when we were bad!” she sniffled, and I think I know at least part of what’s going on: L tries very hard to be a good student, and when she hears that they’re getting assigned seats, which she usually associates with misbehavior, she begins doubting her own goodness in class. It’s a fairly natural reaction, I would think, but L chews and chews on things like this until she wears it down or it wears her down.
We talked about it a bit tonight, and in the course of that conversation, one of the real concerns became evident, a concern that I myself remember having when I was in elementary school. “We don’t have a bathroom in the class.” Instead, they must share the facilities with fourth and fifth graders. Who knows what that might lead to, she reasons. And while I certainly think there’s little to worry about, I do recall how we’re seeing more and more news reports that show children younger and younger growing more and more brutal. It’s unlikely, though, that anything worse than a sideways glance from a fifth grader might happen. But I too remember that fear that comes with being thrown in among older kids who are completely unknown.
The Boy, on the other hand, had a completely different experience. “But Mommy, I’m not ready to go,” he told K when she picked him up from his part-time K-3 (K-3? Is there any limit to this?!) program. The teacher commented on his manners, which consistently imzpress me, and he likely commented continually about the enormous Thomas the Train play station in his room.
And my day? First day back as an eighth-grade teacher is always a bit stressful. I’d already had my visit with the seventh-grade assistant principal to find out which students could be most challenging and therefore which students I need to focus on as I developed relationships with 100+ new thirteen-year-olds. But despite the schedule I feared would be brutal, I mounted my bike feeling I might not have had a better first day in my entire teaching career.