Friday, August 20, 2010

Bettering the Better

I am feeling a bit better about the school situation.  I suppose... I have a feeling I am going to have to be more assertive then I like to be and consider that if I do not voice my opinion things will not change.  Both are things I am not comfortable with but isn't that what life is about?  Going out of one's comfort zone.

I will say this.  I love that Matthew's school is new.  It is light and airy in the classrooms and halls.  The playground is fun and modern.  And the staff have all been amazing.  Finally, I love the location.  Like Matthew's pre-school, this school's setting is beautiful.  It is set way from main roads and traffic in a heavily treed area in a quiet location.  I love that.  I was standing there waiting for Matthew to come out of class on the first day and I thought 'WOW my public schools never looked this way'.  They were in large urban areas with many crossing guards and a rare tree and mostly concrete and asphalt surrounding them. 
We have been reading the Ramona book series with Matthew.  We got the entire series for a good price and it has been so much fun to read them.  Books were such a huge part of my experience growing up.  The Ramona books make me both laugh and cry.  Poor Matthew had to get me a tissue for my sniffling over Beezus getting her ears pierced and that dang chapter about the new baby being born!  Lawdy.

I love books now and when I was a kid.  With a big ole heart and little hearts all around that big heart... I linger in the bookstore over books I loved as a kid - Ginger Pye and A Cricket in Times Square, the Pearl and James and the Giant Peach, The Witches and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the list goes one...

Books that protected me from a troubled family situation and blew my mind in the imagination department.  I was way ahead in reading when I started school reading chapter books by the first grade.  I would ride my bike to the neighborhood library and come home with as many books as I could stuff in my back pack.  Then I would stack them up in a pile and start reading one after another for hours on end. Somewhere along the way apparently I was ready for school and so they put me in school.  The youngest always by a year or two.  Probably because I could read early, who knows.  I have an SRA test score sheet from 3rd grade that states I was reading at a 7th grade level at that point.  My math scores were abysmal. 

The truth was when we moved to California I actually never liked school.  I never felt happy there.  I was a trouble maker because the classroom sizes were huge in my large urban public Elementary school.  I was constantly being given orange slips and I spent a lot of time in the Principal's office.  I can remember my yellow folder wavering in his hand stuffed full with orange slips, embarrassingly large and the sad look on his face at my failings.  The teachers went on strike two of the three years I attended that school.  I cannot remember my exact number of missed school days but between 1st and 3rd grade but I was probably missing 2-3 days a week every week.  I mostly did not like my teachers and by the time my parents put me into St. Mary's, a private school in an affluent little community away from where we lived, I was a "certified trouble maker."  It took me four years to feel comfortable at that school and it took me years to realize that is was good that my parents made that choice.  My first year, fourth grade, at this private school I spent the majority of that year sitting at the teacher's desk because I was disruptive and "too talkative".

If I ever express amazement over having graduated from HS and even more amazing to me getting not one but two college degrees it is because my distaste for school runs that deep.  To this day, I think back about my school experience in negative terms, with very few bright spots when it came to classes AND teachers.  I learned to cheat and/or brown nose my way through school.  I cannot say about any single teacher "that one really did it for me, he/she changed the course of my schooling..." I can tell you the ones I hated in order and by name though.  I had to retake all of my math courses in HS to even graduate and I cheated in Chemistry and Biology and French to get a barely passing grade in each.  Enough to get me into a state college in California.  I did the bare minimum most of the time.

I think the move from NY to CA was hard on me.  I think the chaotic home life was troublesome and let me get away with missing out on the crucial first three years of school. I think I was good at one thing but I was too young, not ready to attend school when I did.  My parents were too busy with their lives and the troubled lives of two teenagers and a marriage that was imploding to notice me and my struggles. 

They did try, do not get me wrong.  They got me a math tutor and realized the issue with the public school, perhaps to late, and moved me to a better situation.  By that time, I was stubborn which was problematic.  I do remember feeling very alone and helpless, wanting desperately to have attention paid to me, by my parents or an adult, to know that I was struggling with school.

I want to say I fondly remember school. I do not. 

I do fondly remember reading.  I do fondly remember excelling at that.  I do fondly remember playing hard out on the playground.  And using some of my pent up feelings to excel at sports.  I do fondly remember my trips to the library and lazy summer afternoons reading.  I loved to write and practice cursive. 

And I love to learn now.

My hope for Matthew is that he loves school the way I never learned to.  My hope for Matthew is that he knows he has his parents as a constant guiding love for him, as his voice right now when he cannot really have a voice.  My hope for Matthew is that he succeeds where I feel I may have failed.
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