We've been to school a few times in the last week as part of the back-to-school routine. The first night was a visit to their old school to help with the annual read-a-thon. They were very short volunteers and so both Bud and I were helping out. I dressed up in my colonial outfit and read stories about museums and life in the "olden days," including A Night at the Museum, Ella's Trip to the Museum, and Hornbooks and Inkwells, with Sis as my companion and time keeper. I started each discussion with a question about my outfit, since most readers came dressed in their work clothes--what did the kids think I did? Most guessed farmer or gardener! I loved that they recognized the agrarian or pastoral quality associations of the time period. And I hadn't really expected anyone to guess historian or docent. Bud did his own reading to other classes, selecting We are in a Book, The Lost Boy, and a book about a penguin discovering colors which title I forget. I'm told that Mama and Bud actually read the first book as a kind of duet, one as Gerald and one as Piggie, doing the voices. The kids all loved it!
Last night was our annual open house, our chance to meet the teachers and hear about the curricula and expectations for the year. This year we had three teachers to meet, as part of the advanced learning program in which both the kids are enrolled. We heard about the need to study multiplication facts, upcoming units on energy and also electricity, plus Connecticut geography, and about the Columbia Writers Workshop model. And, best of all, we heard all about the butterflies. The reading teacher engages the kids in a study of butterflies as inspiration for both informational and reflective writing. She told us all about how that very day the kids had noticed a butterfly wasn't doing well and so they weren't sure it would leave when they released it. So, they carefully took it outside and placed it on the butterfly bush at school and . . . lo, and behold! that butterfly took off. Joyful pandemonium broke out as the kids collectively celebrated (and no doubt the teacher breathed a sigh of relief.)
As encouraging and supportive as all the teachers sounded, I have to admit to strong feelings of academic pressure arising, all from my own memories of seeking approval and good grades in school I was one of those students you read about who studied and worked for the high grades and teacher approval, not for the learning or joy; as a group, we stressed about failure, cheated to get ahead, and weren't always very flexible or creative, looking for the right answer. And I was pretty good at all of it. But it's not what I want for Sis and Bud. Still, as I heard about rubrics and quizzes and the Parent Portal through which I can check grades in real time, those old feelings of getting good grades came right back. It will be my struggle this year and many more to come. And I will try to keep in mind the teacher's story about the person who damaged the butterfly by trying to help it (without letting it struggle on its own.)