Friday, September 22, 2006

Iris is bored: her teachers weigh in

So last night was "Lower School Curriculum Night", and both Anton and I were there, on a mission, to determine whether we thought Iris would get enough challenges this year. Normally we are not high maintenance parents; we rarely have a complaint or an issue (in fact, I don't think we had any issues or complaints last year).

We milled around with the other parents beforehand, where we pathetically lived up to gender stereotypes. Anton got into a technical discussion with another father about faux landscaping (with the Sober Husband, everything is technical. You won't catch him discussing the aesthetics or the environmental impact of faux landscaping, but instead, the chemical make-up, the physical properties, etc.. come to his mind). Meanwhile, I talked about "Project Runway" and the study of economics with some other mothers.

The head of school's presentation was brief (test scores: up; new building: will be constructed this winter). We were dispatched to the individual classrooms. At Iris's first grade classroom, the teacher spoke for a solid hour about the curriculum for the year, and she had prepared a sheaf of handouts for each parent. We were also given cards from our daughters, welcoming us to their classroom, and we were asked to write a note to our daughters to leave for them and given a piece of yellow paper with a rainbow and some flowers at the top.

I noticed that in the center of our table was a giant tub of markers, and I opened it, took out a marker, and drew a little cartoon cat on the letter for Iris. This was infectious, and at my table, every parent but Anton went for the markers (some were getting a little greedy about hoarding lots of colors, despite a surfeit of markers). Everyone (but Anton) industriously colored away, most choosing to color in the flowers and rainbow on our paper, rather than create an original drawing. One mother did a stick figure of herself holding her daughter's stick figure hand. The other father at our table, in a stunning business suit, got down to coloring as well, concentrating on his rainbow fiercely. It was pathetic how much I enjoyed this project, painstakingly drawing Frowsty, Al, the rat known as Goosebye, and a sun, plus writing a long, loving note. My friend sitting next to me got a little competitive with me over this, and she worked extra hard on hers (nice job, Judy, if you ever read this!). Anton finally took up a pen and wrote, "Love. Pride. Anton" at the bottom. Later, he grabbed the pen again after he learned the weeklong schedule (Iris is very secretive about her school schedule and was actually semi-pissed off last year when we cracked it and figured out which days are art, which day is the library, etc..). "Your teacher gave me your schedule! Now I know it all! Ha! Ha!" he wrote.

There was very little time at the end for parents to mingle and talk directly to the teachers, but I did aggressively corner the poor head teacher and tell her that Iris was complaining of boredom. The teacher pointed out that the first few weeks of school were mostly about learning the routines of the first grade, working on social skills, and getting settled in. The work will be ramping up from here, and we should expect that Iris will be getting challenged in the coming weeks. Fair enough, teacher, fair enough.

The highlight of my evening, apart from my little coloring project, was seeing the girls' huge self-portraits. One little girl had drawn amazingly detailed bloodshot eyes for herself, with immense numbers of capillaries: Portrait of a Severely Hung-over Six Year-old. I wish I could have that painting. Iris's was rather banal, except that she had painted her hair fire engine red (I gave in to her pleadings this summer and, steamrollering over staid Anton's oppposition, had her hair dyed garish, fake red with temporary dye, which faded, leaving her hair right now a subdued auburn).

We gave another mother a ride home, and as soon as she got out of the car, Anton burst out, "I told Ms. P. that Iris is bored!"

"So did I!" The poor teacher, getting it from both barrels. The Drunken Housewife and the Sober Husband can both be rather intense, and we should have coordinated this so she would be subjected to only one of us.

So, we will see.


Freewheel said...

Well, at least now the teacher knows that your daughter is looking for challenges.

They've also been focusing on rules & socializing (or perhaps socialization) at my son's public school during these 1st weeks. My son keeps saying "kindergarten is stupid!" and tells us he hates all the rules, like sitting "criss-cross applesauce." Some challenges would help him, too.

M.Amanda said...

I agree, at least the teacher has been informed. It does make sense, though, that the first week or two is a refresher of last year. A couple months of laying around the house is often more than enough for a kid to forget stuff.

I still enjoy coloring too. And you are such a cool mom to let her play with her hair color. I had to wait until I was 14.

Anonymous said...

Hey ya,
In private school, the teachers and staff should be more than ready to make sure the children aren't complaining of boredom. They don't have to accept just any child--their students tend to start off reading in first grade--they have more flexibility to meet student needs--
etc., etc.

If the pace doesn't pick up for Iris you'll have to be the high maintenance parent. It sucks, but sometimes, you gotta get what you pay for.

The teacher needs to have leveled reading groups. If she doesn't, ask why not. First graders are all over the place with reading skills--even if they are all reading, they are not on the same page, literally.

I just realized I'm in fullscale teacher mode. I must work on that bossy tone. :-)

I loved reading about the Open House night. I always have a smile on my face when I finish reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

Is this an all-girl school? Holy moly! Do they ever get to hang out with boys? I wish you lived near me so we could get the kids together. Josh would be so impressed with dyed red hair. Off topic, who's going to win Project Runway? Are you reading fourfour's episode summary blog? He is absolutey hilarious.