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Kvelling in Second Grade

Second grade started Wednesday this week and brought with it a bundle of mixed emotions including trepidation, concern, anxiousness, and fear. It’s probably the worst I’ve felt about the beginning of a school year since the early days of preschool.

There were two primary reasons for this. The first, as I’ve mentioned before, is the dearth of familiar boys in his class this year. The second is that this year’s teacher has a reputation for being very strict with the children and is more “old school” than teachers he’s had in the past.

Three days in, I’m still quite concerned about the boy situation. Simon has described them thusly:

“A likes to goof off. B is pretty good, but his friendship with A might get him into trouble. C and D are NOT good students. They get in trouble all the time. E is just disgusting, even for a boy. I don’t know who would want to be his friend. F, G, and H seem shy.”

I believe him, and I’m hanging my hopes on F-H and possibly splitting B off from A unless A gets with the program. The saddest thing I heard him say? “I think I’m in the badly behaved boys class.”

So that’s going to be fun! The boy Simon was paired with from last year, Apurv, did indeed move over the summer. As random luck would have it, it increasingly looks as though the preponderance of boys assigned to his class are the types Simon actively avoids. There’s no sugar-coating this situation: Whereas last year Simon had five close boy friends and several more friendly acquaintances in his class, this year I’m going to be doing good if he can land more than one or two.

I sure hope Olivia, Rayna, and Brooklyn don’t decide that all boys are icky this year, because Simon is going to need their friendship.

Happily, my second concern has more or less vanished. Mrs. R is in fact strict. I had heard it before, and Simon told me so himself. I had also heard that Mrs. R was introverted and had a rather flat tone with the children. I.e. She’s not perky, she’s not an entertainer, and she’s not overly motherly.

I prepared Simon for some of this beforehand. It seemed to me that Simon of all people should understand introversion and a teacher needing time to get to know and warm up to her students. I tackled the perky/motherly bit by explaining that we all express care in different ways. Some people are verbally affectionate, others are physically affectionate, some like to shop for those they care for, and still others show they care through hard work.

Mrs. R had adorable puppy folders for all the children in her class, a theme that was also found on desk labels, her door, and various other spots in the room. She must have spent hours on these preparations, and I explained to Simon that this is how she shows her care and devotion. As with introversion, this is something Simon should understand. Both of his grandmothers are the types who show their love the most through their actions. They don’t smother him with kisses or spoil him with presents: What they do is show up for soccer and tennis games, take him to Putt Putt, help with school work, and otherwise spare no effort in being a part of his life.

When it came to the strict thing, I drew from my own past. I can name several teachers right now who scared the pants off of me when I first met them. These were teachers I was convinced were going to yell at me, flunk me, and otherwise make my life miserable. Every last one of them ended up being a favorite. They ran tight ships, let me concentrate on my work, were consistent, and appreciated my efforts.

And so it was with many years of school under my belt that I was able to confidently tell Simon that strict is his friend. Strict is what will keep his class from being too noisy or unruly for him. Strict will keep the badly behaved boys from running amok in class. He was made for strict!

I got confirmation of all of this today. After school, Simon wanted to show me his classroom. I was mindful that this was the first Friday of the school year and that Mrs. R might well want and need to have some peace and quiet. So I made Simon knock on her door and ask if it was OK for us to duck in for a few minutes.

I left 20-30 minutes later. Mrs. R had things to say—most of them about Simon. She praised his reading, his first writing assignment (“beautiful work, and so much for the first of second grade!”), his math assessment today, his friendliness, his helpfulness, and his obedience. It was almost more than I could take. She told me, and this is verbatim, “I haven’t found anything he isn’t good at yet. He’s just a wonderful child and a pleasure to have in class.”

I think I became welcome by association, for this famously quiet person then went on to tell me all about her class preparations and summer vacation. She could not have been more engaged and welcoming, and it was clear to me that she’s going to look after my boy.

Strict is Simon’s friend, literally. Now if we could just get a few boys to straighten up, we’d really have something to work with this year.

2 Responses to “Kvelling in Second Grade”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Sounds like a student I used to know.

  2. Amanda says:

    Seriously, Rita! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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