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Purple is the New Green

At the bus stop with a friend on the first day of first grade

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Simon’s life is beginning to remind me of the movie Groundhog Day with its endless repetitive looping. Tuesday the kiddos within Jefferson County Public Schools all returned to school. Just like last year, I went to help sort the buses and arrange and/or verify afternoon transportation at school on the first day, a herculean job that left me too drained to post any first-day photos that day. [Hey non-ESL parents: fill out your d**n paperwork, will you?]

Yesterday was closer to normal, and Simon and I had our regular car-ride chat on the way home from school. Last year, Simon’s self identity largely revolved around being the greenest kid in class, with green being the color code for no behavioral issues. You could give up one class dollar and stay on green during the day, but not two. Simon gave up two dollars the entire year, literally ran out of room on his “star chart” (a star was given for each day a child ended with all the class cash he or she started with), and was widely regarded by his peers as being the best behaved boy in the entire class. He tied with a girl for best behaved all-round.

This year’s system is more complicated. So complicated that I can’t fully describe it here. It seems to involve clothes pins traveling up and down a chart, beginning with “ready to learn” and either moving down to “make better decisions” or moving up—way up—to “you rock!” Each step along the way also has a color associated with it, with purple coinciding with the “you rock!” level of silent, obedient perfection.

Guess who got to “you rock!” first on Tuesday? Yup. Guess who got there first yesterday? Right again. Guess who has now set the goal to not only get to purple every day, but to also be the first student to get to purple every day. You rock!

Also the same as last year? The competition with James M. over Lexia Reading supremacy. At the end of last year, James M. had reached Lexia Primary Reading level 5 while Simon remained on 4. This bothered Simon. Two weeks before school started, I let Simon log back in to get some reading practice. He, too, finished level 4, at which point two questions immediately came into his feverish mind:

  1. Was he now tied with James M.?
  2. Could he start level 5 to see what it was like?

My immediate answer was “no”, but I have been thwarted by a first-grader. You see, James M. logged in as Simon from his home computer last week and now knows that Simon has leveled. So he’s now fired up to finish level 5 and regain the lead. Which means that now Simon is equally fired up to begin level 5 to prevent James M. from building on his lead.

My only hope is for their accounts to expire—which surely must happen very soon—to end this madness. Because Simon is now working at a level where he can read the words just find but doesn’t always understand what they mean or how different words relate to one another. Partly this is owing to his working two grade levels ahead of himself, and partly this is owing to the association questions in Lexia being badly written. (And they are. Lexia is generally great, but their association games are consistently random and misleading.)

Also the same as least year? He’s bummed about the math. Last year’s report was “we don’t do math in math class” because it wasn’t double-digit addition. This year’s crushing blow was the discovery that first grade does not include multiplication, or “timeses” as Simon calls them.

Happily, there is one more similarity to last year. Simon immediately liked Mr. Sowder, and he took a quick shine to this year’s teacher, Ms. Thomas, as well. So much so that after first meeting her he told me this:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if one day 24 kids all got sick and stayed home on the same day, and I got to be the only student in Ms. Thomas’s class.”

A bit sociopathic, but charming in its own way. And now, if you will forgive me, I’m off to find colorful multiplication charts to hang in someone’s bedroom.




One Response to “Purple is the New Green”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Simon sounds more like Uncle Steve every day.

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