Scary Days Ahead

It was the first day of school. Nobody could prepare me for this. My mom said it would be fun. My friends were excited that we would have more time at school together. My teacher the previous year said that the next year would be even better.

However, I was scared.

Mrs. Johnson only looked nice in the school pictures. In person she was a different person. Yeah, some of the kids liked her. But not me. She was Dorothy’s wicked witch to me. All she was missing on that first day of school was green skin and a big wart on her chin. Well, I guess she didn’t have the black pointed hat or black dress or striped socks or black shoes. Instead she had black hair and big rimmed glasses.

She was younger then my previous teacher but she was still old. Older than my mom that is. And to me that meant she was going to be strict. And she was. But that was 36 years ago. I was six years old. It was first grade.

My worst memory that year came during the winter. Our classroom had it’s own bathroom at the back. And next to the bathroom door was an outside door that led to the playground. It made for some great convenience when playing took higher priority than running off to the bathroom when the urge came on. There were some close calls that could have been terrible experiences for many kids had the bathroom been any further away from that door.

But one day, that urge came to one particular student and what could have been a close call turned in to a horrible experience. Why? Not because child wanted to continue playing until the last moment possible before running off to the toilet. No, in this case the student decided to head right away to the bathroom. But relief was not to be on that particular day.

The teacher was enjoying her 15 minutes of freedom while the kids were at recess. She didn’t want to be bothered at all. Especially with any kids that would be opening the outside door and letting the cold wind blow inside. So on this particular occasion, the student with the potty urge was denied access. Upon coming through the door a loud, stern voice sent a command to turn right around and head back outside.

After pleading his case, after begging to be able to use the bathroom, the student was given an ultimatum of going back outside or getting privileges taken away. Actually, the privileges would be taken away no matter what if he didn’t leave immediately. How long it took him to leave would determine how many privileges would be taken away.

But the kid had to go pee really bad. She didn’t care. He couldn’t hold it any longer.

I have a hard time deciding what was the worst part of that experience. First of all, there was the puddle on the floor that all of my classmates would see as then came inside from recess. Next, they would know it was me because there I was in wet pants. Third, I knew when the teacher saw the mess I would be dead meat. What is a boy to do?

Well, she told me to go back outside…so I did. Wet pants in below freezing weather. A playground full of kids that would for sure notice my pants. It was really enjoyable. NOT!!!

At the end of the playground was an undeveloped field. On the other side of the field was a park. Through the park and across the street was a church. And behind that church was my house. I ran.

I cried the whole way home.

When I got home I told my mom what had happened. I changed my clothes into something dry. I drank some hot chocolate. And then I was taken back to school. I don’t remember if my mom talked with the teacher or not. All I remember is that I didn’t want to be in her class any more. She was a mean lady in my mind and she didn’t like me at all.

I was six years old. I was scared.

Tomorrow my youngest goes off to start the first grade. She too is six years old. But she is blessed. Mrs. Johnson retired a long time ago. She might even be dead.

Starting a new school year can be a scary experience for kids. Whether it is because they are changing schools or because they are going to have a teacher that they have never met, a new school year can cause a bit of anxiety. Add to that the pressure that parents put on their children to do their best in class, to pay attention, to get all homework done, etc. It is a surprise at times that we don’t have kids experiencing panic attacks more often.

So what can I as a parent do to help my child have a better experience than me? Well, gratefully the teachers are more considerate, patient, and understanding at the elementary school that my kids go to. But I can also help my daughter to learn to be more cognizant of what is going on with her…in all aspects. If we teach our kids to be responsible for themselves, they will have more success than I had on that cold winter day. Walking home with frozen pants isn’t fun.

I don’t want my daughter to do that.

Kids, there are 180 school days in the year. I am sure that more than one of them will be a little bit scary. Go forward and conquer it.

Parents, there are 180 school days in the year and you won’t be able to watch your child and protect them every minute that they are at school. Some days will be a little bit scary. Teach your child correctly, trust them to make correct decisions, and let everything else fall into place on its own.

And if you are a teacher, please let the child that is about to look control of his bodily functions use the bathroom. It will save a mess on the floor and in their clothes, it will save the child from teasing, ridiculing, and over all feeling bad. Most of all, it will save that child’s dignity. And we all know how important that can be.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

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Who Cares About School?

Mathematics homework

Image via Wikipedia

What is wrong with attitude towards education with some of the kids today?  Why do I still see some struggles throughout our country at the level of education our kids receive?  Do we not care that we are lagging behind other countries that we have no business taking a back seat to?

My dad was a professor at BYU for 38 years.  He taught accounting and  income taxation.  He was a very smart person…more book smart than common sense smart…but none-the-less, he was smart.

Dad always wanted us kids to excel in school.  As one that wanted to please him, and as one that wanted to be recognized by the teachers as a good student, I tried really hard during my elementary school years to be the best in my class.  I wasn’t always the best.  There were others that could draw better than me, some who had better penmanship, and some who could read faster.  It didn’t bother me.  In fact, at times it made me want to work harder in those areas to improve.

The one subject that I usually did the best in was math.  For some reason I could figure out problems in my head pretty quickly.  Sometimes working with fractions and decimals didn’t come so easily but I could always picture those in my mind on a number line.  This helped me in figuring out the answer.

I entered junior high school and suddenly I had lost my identity, something that I would assume happens with a majority of kids.  In elementary school I had been 1 of 90 students in the grade.  Now I was 1 of 600.  More students for the teachers to work with.  More classes to take.  More homework.

I didn’t like having more homework.  One of the reasons why is because during elementary school I was trying to do so well and frequently finished my “homework” before I left the school, thus allowing me the whole afternoon to be worry free and able to go play.  This didn’t work for me in junior high.

All of my classes were enjoyable.  Band was simple.  History was a repeat of 4th grade.  Health was something new (why were we talking about our bodies at that age?).  English was more intensive.  PE was a lot more fun…except for the locker room scene.  Science was confusing.  Math…ahhh, the one thing that I could handle.  Or could I?

Actually, those classes weren’t that bad at all.  My struggles were with myself more than the classwork.  But as I got older, school became less important to me.  I wanted the social side of school more than the educational side.  I wanted to be one of the “Cools” (a group of the most popular boys), I wanted to be the athlete, I wanted all the cute and popular girls to like me.  It didn’t really happen.  And I think one reason why is because I didn’t care about school…something that those I wanted to be like did care about.

I graduated from high school not knowing which direction to take my life but with a ticket to start school at BYU just three weeks later.  I quickly found out that I could not take the same approach to college that I took with high school if I wanted to succeed in life.

Now I have two of my own kids in high school.  They are completely different in their approach to their education.  My daughter takes the approach I should have taken.  She does great and should have no problem accomplishing what she wants to do.

My son, who is a year behind my daughter, is taking the approach that I took, but with a little bit different attitude.  In his mind, he should be able to just have the job in his desire career field without having to gain an education.  At least I knew I would have to work to get the career.

For the last three years I have been reliving my junior high and high school years.  Not in the sense that I have started hanging out with 12-17 year olds, or trying to have the popular hair and clothing styles.  What I have been re-living has been the classwork.  You see, the biggest struggle my son has is with homework.

I have myself to blame…at least partly.  You see, when he was younger we (my wife and I) wanted him to develop his reading skills and develop a like for reading.  It is a good skill to have, especially since he was going to have to do quite a bit of it.

Now we can’t get him to stop reading.  He would rather fail all of his classes and spend his time reading.  A couple of years ago when we would try to get him to do his homework, it was like pulling teeth from a pirhana that is still in the water.  We really wondered if we were looking at a permanent resident who would still be living at home, unmarried and unemployed, when we retired.  I didn’t want that.  I look forward to the empty-nester years so I can run around the house naked if I want to.  Okay, just kidding about that one but I do believe there is a time that parents should be able to be on their own and I sometimes wonder if he will jeopardize it.  I love him and will support him as needed, but I want him to live his life and accomplish his dreams.  So I remind him how important school is…

Whenever I discuss the need for education, for doing homework and doing well on quizzes and test, I feel like I am a broken record.  His response is simple, “Who cares?”  Well, quite simply, I do.  His mom does.  And hopefully, someday, he will.

So how do we get him to care?  How do we get more kids like him to care?  How do we make sure that all parents care?  Life isn’t easy, and it isn’t getting any easier.  Is there a solution?

Last night I had a talk with him to help him understand why school is so important.  He would like to work in multiple scientific fields when he is an adult.  We talked about all that is required to be a chemist, a geologist, and an archeologist…the three fields he most wants to work in.  In simple terms, with a calm voice, and in an encouraging way, I asked him to tell me what he would need to know to work in those fields and how he will be able to have any of those careers without the education he is receiving right now.  He has even talked about being a police officer, yet realizes that even they have additional education after high school.

So the approach…place the responsibility on his shoulders.  I want him to succeed in life and I won’t be able to hold his hand the whole way.  So, why not act the same now.  I will help when he needs help.  I will encourage when he needs encouragement.  I will make sure he hears praises for his work and knows that I am proud.  But is there more to be done?  I guess my education is still continuing.  Time to do some homework.

Just another view from a Palmtree.