Monday, September 14, 2009

It's Hammer Time (how I wish it was MC Hammer related)- First Grade Jitters

Last week, one million children began public school in New York City, including my daughter who entered the first grade.

Who knew first grade would be so different from kindergarten?

The day began with my daughter asking to take the bus to school. Of course, I said "no, it's a beautiful day, you are now a first grader and first graders walk to school. We only take the bus if it's raining or super cold".

Because children are so wedded to routine, I know why she asked the question. Last year on the first day of kindergarten, we did indeed take the bus to school. I went this route to save time and avoid being late to school. I knew what should be a 15 minute walk would turn into a 30 minute walk and when you have to be at school at 8:20, I just couldn't deal with anxiety of being late on the first day.

The first change for first grade is the entrance to the school. Kindergartners used the entrance in which the door is open all the time, of course a security guard mans the door but still it's open not locked.

The upper grades enter through another entrance away from the pre-school/kindergarten entrance. So I arrived to a throng of waiting parents outside the first grade entrance door which it turned out was locked. We waited a few minutes, and suddenly around 8:15 the door magically opened. Kidding, the principal was there to welcome us and shepherd us up the stairs to the first grade floor. I couldn't even tell you how you could even go to the kindergarten floor from the first grade floor, I was so confused.

As you can imagine, it's utter chaos going into the hallway on the first day. There were first graders, parents and siblings clogging up the hall trying to find their classrooms.

Unfortunately, for us, my daughter's class was the first class as you enter the floor. This means every child/parent/sibling has to pass by us to get to their class. The madness of "excuse me, excuse me, people bumping into me was just plain crazy.

Of course, my daughter's classroom door was closed and again like the school entrance the door magically opened at exactly 8:20 and there was the "the hammer", Mrs. X. I deemed her "the hammer" because she was all business, no smile, no welcome to first grade, no I am Mrs. X to the parents. She calmly with not one iota of passion and enthusiasm for the bewildered children and parents on the first day of first grade, told us "the kids line up next to the door to the classroom and parents need to stand on the other side of the hall so as to keep the hallway clear so people could pass through." Punto, that was it, "welcome to first grade". She then shook each child's hand and escorted them into the room, leaving the parent, me, standing on the other side of the hallway with a "is that it feeling."

This is such vast change from last year. In kindergarten, for the first few months, we were allowed into the classroom to help our kids put away their stuff and read to them for 10 minutes.

The other major difference between the "hammer" and her kindergarten teachers is so night and day. In kindergarten, it was all "happiness" and "light." My nicknames for her two teachers. Yes, last year she had two teachers because she was luckily assigned to the CTT or collaborative teaching class. Everyone has an opinion about CTT class. Some don't want their kids with the "so-called" slower, special needs kids. Frankly, for months as I sat in the room every morning reading to Alex, I could not for the life of me figure out who the "special needs" kids were. If it not for the parents telling me, I would have not figured it out.

Back to "happiness" and "light", my daughter's two kindergarten teachers were both happy, smiling, positive, never mean, under 30, enthusiastic, never raised a voice types - just what you want for a kindergarten teacher. The type of role models that you see during the school tour, not knowing the terror that lurks behind those smiling, role models. The other kindergarten teachers apparently were not so nice, "yellers" in fact, not very patience with rambunctious boys and somewhat disrespectful to the parents. This I heard from numerous parents through out the year. That said, my daughter had a great year in kindergarten.

On the last day of school, the children were just given room assignment but no teacher names. This seemed absurd since some of the teachers had been teaching for years and never moved rooms. Throughout the summer, I kept hearing mixed reviews from parents on my daughter's teacher. "Mean, old school, strict, occasionally raised her voice", the opinions ranged from I hated her to I liked her. I can't say I was apprehensive because who knows right until you actually meet some one and at the end of the day, you want your child to learn, love school and move on. So in a nutshell, we went from "happiness" and "light" to "the hammer".

It's only been three days so time will tell if this is going to be a good year but hopefully, "the hammer" telling me I had to the stand in the doorway to take a picture on the first day of school is not an true indication of how the school year is going to proceed. Let's all hope.

What was your first day of school like?


Amy Kehoe said...

The Hammer. Ha! Well, sometimes they don't know how to communicate with parents whatsoever but they're great with the kids. Let's hope that's the case.

Following from MBC.

JosiahsMommy said...

Lol. I had a teacher like that once. I still remember her how many years later... Ahhh. ALl I can say is, if your daugher really isn't happy in that class, don't hesitate to talk with her principal. They are there to help you!

Buffyfan said...

I agree that sometimes teachers are not the "nicest" with parents but the kids love them. There is a 5th grade girl we ran into the neighborhood yesterday who had the Hammer and her comments "she's great."

Let's face it, sadly, every year we aren't going to hit a home run with teachers but it we will see how it plays out. I can't wait until the parent curriculum meeting next week.

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