David Brooks has an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times entitled “In Praise of Equipoise”, in which he talks about our smoothly shifting among different roles. His main point is different from mine. He’s talking about how reductionist it is when we reduce anyone — ourselves or another person — to a single identity. My point, which certainly supports the gist of his piece, is how hard it is to turn off my educator eye when I take Archie to school in my role as Grammie and see his classroom, his teacher, and his new friends.
I have a doctorate in education, although early childhood was not my area of concentration. At the outset of my career I taught elementary age students with learning disabilities for three years, in a suburb of Rochester. Because my students were also in a mainline classroom for half the day, I saw a wide range of teachers and teaching styles as I had to interact with them about how to best approach students with non-traditional learning capacities. My information and observations are dated, but not irrelevant.
I didn’t go with Archie, Amy and Matt on his first day. Amy and Matt wanted that experience for themselves, which I certainly supported. I cherished the pics they sent, sharing some of them with you. I did go with Amy to see the drop-off routine on Friday.
Archie already knows pieces of his new routine. He had a locker, sized just right for his reach. He takes his lunch box out and puts it on the shelf just above his locker. He takes out his snack bag and brings that to his cubby in the classroom. He goes inside the classroom, where his smiling and welcoming teacher, Sean, is there to greet everyone. Mommy helps Archie put on his name tag. Small tables are set with pictures to color, and small boxes of crayons. Archie finds his name and sits down. There is a message from Sean and Carson on the screen; one child is already reading it himself. Despite myself I feel a momentary competitive tug. I know perfectly well that most kids learn to read competently by third grade. Other than the few four year olds who come in reading chapter books and never look back, it hardly matters later on if you were an early reader or a late one. I firmly quiet the tug, and look at Archie’s smiling face as he begins to work.
I saw what Archie meant about there being more tables and chairs than toys. But the room is bright and welcoming. There is a robust block corner. The feeling tone is good — warm, as I said, and welcoming. The transition is smooth. So many kids go to day care now that saying good-bye to parents is an established routine.
If I were six I’d like being in Sean’s classroom. I would feel as if I was with someone who knows how to help me learn. Some child-sized variation of that is what I’ll tell Archie when I see him next.