Oh, First Grade. You are not what we expected.
Kindergarten went so well. Eddie loved his teacher, his classmates, and the learning he was doing. Granted, he claimed his favorite part of the day was “free choice,” but who can blame a kid for loving to play?
First Grade, we were so excited for you! We went Back to School Shopping with a LIST this year. We bought dry erase makers and crayons and a pencil box! We got a new backpack! And best of all? Eddie was assigned a DESK rather than a table! The excitement was out of control.
Yes, Eddie is the youngest in the class; he just turned six this summer. Yes, he is a boy; boys are notorious for being late social bloomers. And YES, he is academically ahead; the kid has been reading since he was four. But we really didn’t anticipate any problems with any of these.
On meet the teacher night, we saw his teacher would be using a behavior chart like ours: everyone starts out in green and then can move up or down according the behavioral choices they make. Eddie was already used to this since we do it at home.
We had no idea this chart would give Eddie–and his mom–so much anxiety.
During the second week of school, I got a concerned email from his teacher that Eddie is having a hard time with sitting still, staying quiet, and paying attention. Part of me was like, “well yeah. He’s a six-year old boy.” I mean, for him, school had “play breaks”. But First Grade, you don’t have toys in your classroom, you don’t offer “free choice”, and you have one less recess break than Kindergarten did. My active six-year old is hurting a little for “silly time”.
I figured we could talk to Eddie and all would be well, but the following week he was apparently as chatty and social as ever. Mrs. D decided to start sending home a calendar. She would color the day with the coordinating color that Eddie earned: blue (outstanding), green (good), yellow (warning), or orange (sit in the hall and conference with an adult). When he came home with a yellow day he cried. Luckily, Mrs. D called and explained that really, he is green all morning. He drops to yellow in the afternoon.
Suddenly all of our talks about school centered around that damn color chart. The first thing out of my sweet boy’s mouth was his color.
Two emails from his teacher, and a few days of coming home orange and we have a boy who identifies you, First Grade, as being all about whether or not he talks too much in one day.
But that is thing: his being social is one tiny part of who he is as a first grader.
He’s also a leader who loves having a classroom job each week.
He loves to help lead morning stretches and pass back papers and do anything anyone might ask of him.
He is a good friend who asks his seat partner if she is feeling Ok, and keeps her secret when she wets her pants.
He is quick as a whip at math, reads ahead of “grade level”, writes wonderful stories, and gets very excited about science.
He is a dynamo on the computer and enjoys figuring out new games.
He is kind and helpful to kids who are different than he is, and he never ever laughs at those with disabilities.
He stands up for kids who can’t stand up for themselves.
He loves to sing and dance and make noise when he is very happy.
In short, he is a great kid.
After talking about all of these things with Cortney and with my therapist, we have decided, First Grade, that our Eddie is more than just a green or yellow or orange. He is awesome. That behavior color is something he needs to work on, yes. But he is MORE than that. He will get it in time because he is a bright kid.
In the meantime, we will remind him to make good choices, but we will also talk about all the other things that you are, First Grade.
Because we don’t want a color on a chart to create anxiety and hatred for school. We want it to be a challenge and learning experience just like the rest of school should be.