The most important question of the first day of school is whether you are in the same class as your friends. Second is who your homeroom teacher will be. Which is why I’ve still never told my now-adult daughter Stephanie about the role I once played in determining the answers to these two questions.
In Stephanie’s first three years of school she was part of a group of about eight young girls. By Grade 2 the talk at the supper table centred on how awful the day had been: which friends were being mean to whom, which girl had alienated another. Any move to discuss actual classroom work was waylaid by the drama surrounding the school day. The sadness, tears, anger, frustration would come out nearly every day.
Despite this angst, she was devastated in Grade 3 when absolutely none of her friends were in her class. I felt terrible for her; so much so that I asked the principal to intercede. Wait, he suggested. If she isn’t doing well by October, we’ll make some changes.
Well, slowly she settled into the class, other friends, actual school work. Talk around the table became pleasant and focused on what she was learning. She slept better. She liked her new classmates and teacher. At parent-teacher meetings, the teacher told us she was the child to whom others looked to solve problems. We credited our good parenting techniques for the changes! But when Grade 4 came, she still wanted to be back with her old friends. She also really wanted to be in one particular teacher’s class; so did we, as he was acknowledged by all to be the better of the two available.
The day before school started I had a secret meeting with the same principal. Given the situation in the previous year, I felt I was justified to at least have a heads-up about a potential “situation.”
There was Stephanie’s name – on the “good” teacher’s list and with all of her friends. The principal asked how the last year had gone. I realized then that the separation from her friends had changed Stephanie into someone less fearful, happier and more involved with school. She had found her own voice. The year had been a gift.
I asked the principal to separate her again; move her in with the teacher no one wanted; and without her group of old friends. He smiled and said he thought it would be a good thing too. The next day Stephanie declared herself as having incredible bad luck and was heartbroken – for about three days. It was also another great year; but not one I will own up to for a while.
School Meddler is a Nova Scotia mom.
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