Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Following Rules

Before my kids started school, after nine years running things my way, my husband made me promise not to "piss anybody off" at the school -- at least until the kids started.
Well, today was their first day, so I guess that limitation is gone. I'm not a rule follower. I'm not certain when that happened. When I was a kid, I was a perfect student, got straight As. Now I look at rules with a jaundiced eye. What is the point of that rule, I wonder. My kids have already run into a few that are making me crazy.
Grace was in tears when she got in the car. "If I don't have my algebra book covered by tomorrow I'll get detention."
Okay. I can understand the rule to put covers on textbooks, but really, this is punishing the student if her parents don't get to the store that evening. This rule is made to teach what?
Here's one direct from the sheet: "Two (2) hall passes will be given to take care of any personal business each quarter. Any passes not used will equal extra credit! Any passes above 2 will result in a detention."
Okay, so if I'm interpreting this rule correctly,those with large bladders get extra credit. Girls, you need to schedule your periods to come only twice during each quarter. Imagine the girl who is unlucky enough for it to fall the first, fifth and ninth weeks of that quarter. I can see her squirming in the wooden chair, debating, "Is it worth a detention to staunch the flow of blood?"
Hmmmm. It's all coming back to me why I became a rule breaker.

First Day of School

Today, my son and daughter went off to their first day of school. Yes,there were tears, but it wasn't quite the way I'd always envisioned it -- my daughter in a smocked dress with patent leather shoes, my son with his caramel-colored hair slicked back and a button-down shirt. Instead, my daughter wore navy crocs with one strap missing and jean shorts tight to the knees. My son had on a gray Hollister shirt and baggy shorts that my husband kept trying to hike up even as Spencer sauntered out the door. And their first day will not require cutting or pasting. They are off to high school and middle school after years of homeschooling.
I shouldn't have had that celebratory espresso because my stomach was already in knots and now it is in jumpy knots. We left the house in plenty of time, with only a small tussle over the car keys now that Grace has her temporary driver's license. But the school buses were out in full force, stopping with their blinking red lights as the minutes ticked off the clock. I stopped in front of the middle school, in the middle of the road and said goodbye to Spencer -- no kisses, no photos. Just him with a bulky black backpack and the mandatory two boxes of tissues to give to his home room teacher.
I pulled up in front of the high school at 7:59. Homeroom started at 8 a.m. With a deep breath, Grace slid out of the front seat. She wasn't about to run. She pulled the strap of her messenger bag over her head and walked to the side door. She'd have no time to stop at her locker. I pulled away feeling like a failure as a school mom.
My youngest climbed into the front seat beside me and proclaimed it was time for Caribou Coffee. He was delaying school, choosing to stay home at least another year.
When we arrived home, my husband was getting ready to leave for work. "I put my name on my lunch bag," he said proudly, displaying the brown paper bag.
Like a brick in the gut, I realized, "Spencer forgot his lunch."
Of course, that was probably the first of hundreds of times my kids will forget something at home. But I hated that it happened on the first day.
My husband dropped it by the school on his way to work, and I could imagine Spencer realizing halfway through a class that he was without his lunch, or a teeny bopper office worker walking to the classroom and calling out: "This is for Spencer. He forgot to bring his lunch today." Or, the worst scenario of all, an announement over the PA system for Spencer to come to the office.
I watch the clock tick, imagining them going to American History or algebra or Honors English.
And I remind myself that the only thing that could make me a worse school mother would be forgetting to pick them up this afternoon.

Monday, August 06, 2007


I consider myself a fairly confident woman. I have a master's degree. I've worked for 20 years, homeschooled three kids, written two novels.
Sometimes, the little things can throw me back to that insecure 13-year-old again. I've been teaching college for two years and last week I received notice that the lead teacher will be coming to observe my class. This is a totally normal, once-a-year occurrence. I've just dodged the observation for the past two years through luck.
I know the students leaving my class become better writers, so why am I so nervous about this? Why do I feel like the wizard about to have the curtain pulled back? I'm preparing powerpoint presentations, scripting my class, trying to plan for every contingency. I want to impress her with my teaching skills and I'm afraid she'll find me a fraud.
This is the second vulnerable incident in as many weeks. I finished a non-fiction book proposal and sent it off. I know it is a great book idea, but having never written a book proposal, I was filled with trepidation as the e-mail left my desktop. These people are professionals, for god's sake. They'll probably just laugh at my amateurish marketing plan.
Maybe this fear of being laughed at or found lacking is a throwback from my adolescent years. But aren't I the one constantly telling my own adolescents that if they don't take a chance, they'll never accomplish anything.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...