On the first day of school, Peter had had a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast. His teeth were brushed, his lunch and snack were in his backpack, and his favorite shirt was on his back. As his father scurried around the kitchen, he talked to Peter saying things like, “Have you got your lunch? Have you got your backpack?”
Peter was in the lead as they stepped out the door and down the steps to the car. Five feet from the car his father yelled: “Peter! You don’t have any shoes on!”
Looking down at his stocking feet, Peter saw that it was true and said, “Okay. But you don’t have to get mad at me.”
Some people love the process of getting ready for something. They like to lay out their clothes for the next day. They have their shoes all picked out and their backpack all set up by the kitchen table ready for them put in their lunch. Some other people are all “in their heads,” composing screen plays or something and seem incapable of sequential thinking. Others are going over and over whom they will see in their classroom on the first day of school. (I had a recurring dream about it for several years.)
Some people are great at relationships. Their empathy is married to their prefrontal cortex, and they behave effortlessly in social situations. Some of these always say the very thing that makes people comfortable, while others say the thing that makes people laugh, and still others say brilliant things and later beat up on themselves with “Boy, was that stupid!”
Differences abound, and I still haven’t said anything yet about differences in children’s reading-readiness.
The truth is that when a teacher sits on the floor with his kindergartners on opening day and looks around the circle at 25 different faces, he is not looking at three kinds of learners: the normal, the gifted, and those who “learn differently.” If he has 25 different brains in his class, he is looking at 25 different kinds of brains, none of which have knit themselves together, yet. In fact they won’t come together for years. (I don’t know about you, but I am 66, and I am still trying to knit mine together.)
As we send our kids off to school, we should not wish for them success. We should not envision their hands in the air dying to be called on so they can give the right answer time after time. We should not wish that their classroom is peopled with all friends and no bullies. We don’t send our kids to school for it to be easy; we should want it to be hard. If it were easy there would be no point to school in the first place. To treat them all as if the only thing that mattered were how soon they learn to read is Procrustean.
Last year, on the way to school for the first day, Elizabeth said, “Harry, what are you looking forward to in second grade?”
“My mistakes,” Harry replied with a big smile on his face. Bravo school! Brava Elizabeth!
Here is my blessing for all the children on the first day of school, and every day thereafter:
May you develop the grit to live in life’s tensions, the confidence to learn from conflict, mistakes, disappointment, failure, loneliness and losing, and the skills to find the fun in every day and the love in every person. In the process may you never fall out of love with learning.