August 04, 2004

Back to School

I know it may sound odd to those of you in slightly cooler parts of the country whose children just got out of school three days ago, but down hea' we start school Monday.

That is my news flash--we've nearly lived through summer! The current plague Jenna and I have notwithstanding, we have had an enjoyable, illness free, sun drenched summer, sprinkled with a newly acquired phobia of tornadoes (jenna) and the very lovely blisters around my now not-tan nose from this sinus/ear/brain infection I caught, quite obviously, at Chuck-E-Cheese.

In honor of next week's big event, I took my clammy, sweaty self, soon-to-be first grader in tow, to Big Lots yesterday to drop a cool $50 on school supplies.

The great thing about Big Lots is that it has big lots of stuff. The bad part is that it has big lots of many random and useless things. We were fortunate enough to find the necessities on the official School List except for a ream of white copy paper (apparently the six year olds will be running off their own dittos) and dry erase markers (which I assume the children will use to track the terror alert level on classroom whiteboards during the year).

I have also decided to get her the best electric pencil sharpener on the market (donations accepted) because I remember my own high-quality sharpener being perhaps my most important tool in all of academia, the 1968 equivalent of a Toshiba laptop.

Plastic sharpeners and the vice-grip kind never cut it for me. After about three months of school, I would decide to short-cut my work rather than struggling with wood shavings and terminally broken points, with walking to the front of the class like a nerd who'd used all her lead already.

Is it wrong for me to want as much for my own child? I don't think so. If I don't make another promise to my kid this year, I will deliver on the electric sharpener.

She can save the story for therapy--later.

Anyway, I was getting to Jenna and what has her most befuddled and amazed about first grade, aside from the fact that she's getting the SAME teacher she had for Kindergarten, who apparently passed the GCAP with scores as good as Jenna's and is allowed to progress to first grade with my child.

(Super. I was hoping for a little variety, new teaching methods, different energy. But on the up side, Jenna knows and likes the teacher, so her transition should be a piece of cake. Especially with that electric sharpener.)

Now, about Jenna's enthusiasm--it's because of her desk, you see. When I told her that she'd have her own desk, she was so surprised--so flabbergasted--that she had to sit down.

"My own desk--MY OWN DESK? You mean, my very own desk?"

"Yep," I said, her teacher having just told me the news on the phone--before CNN added it to its ticker tape panic readout at the bottom of the TV screen.

"Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! I've seen those desks! They have tops and bottoms, and a little piece that overlaps, and Mom and Mom and Mom--there's an INSIDE!"

"Isn't that awesome! I've seen those kind of desks--in fact I used to have one of those kinds of desks."

"No way.


"You did? And now I will?! MY OWN DESK! I'm SO EXCITED!"

I had nearly forgotten that one of the rites of passage of moving from kindergarten to first grade is leaving tables behind you.

First in Montessori, then in kindergarten, my daughter has been a table dweller. I knew she'd seen desks on TV, and she'd seen them in the older students' class room where she took art after school, but to actually GET her own desk was unfathomable to her. I guess she thought she'd sit at a table forever.

I'm not against tables, mind you. I think children can accomplish a lot working hands on, moving around, completing tasks and assignments independently at tables, which encourage variety and movement when they are used correctly--like in Montessori.

But Jenna's kindergarten wasn't like that. Being stuck at tables meant having to sit next to the boy who pulled buggers from his nose and wiped them on his chair. Being stuck at tables meant snack envy and arm punches and a wiggly writing surface from the ever jiggling knees of the ADHD and the reasonably bored kids.

This Monday my baby girl puts all that behind her. She is backpack ready and desk bound. She's kissing kindergarten goodbye and reaching for the stars--or the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer.

And I know I'll be wiping tears from my eyes as I kiss her goodbye in the car pool line on Monday.

Too fast. They grow too fast.