Update: I’ve added Jennifer’s account of AJ’s first day in the comments section, for the interested.
Today we sent our little boy to school for the first time. Nobody wept. There was no gnashing of teeth, wailing, or sack-cloth and ashes. On our part, anyhow. Instead, we were excited to see AJ off to a new adventure in his life, one that promises whole new rafts of friends, future sleepovers, new books to read, realms of knowledge to acquire, and numerous — I repeat … numerous — parent-teacher conferences down the road.
He’s not angry, just surprised and squinting into the Sun. Or maybe he’s just part Ferengi.
Every parent believes their child to be the brightest bulb in the firmament — with the possible exception of overachieving, insecure parents who vicariously live through their childen, ever suspecting and fearing that their child will prove to be as colossal a failure as they imagine themselves to be.
Not us. AJ is not only bright, he is certifiably bright, even if nobody believes us the first time we warn them — err — inform them. My Bride and are enomously proud of our son (when we’re not enormously vexed by his impulse-control), and I’ve already been justifiably corrected by my son on many observations I’ve made. The days are few until he truly knows more about things than I do and I become the student. Nevertheless, I hope to remain in service as his father, mentor, and guide — even through High School.
More sun. Less Ferengi
Last night we all went to AJ’s new school to meet with the principal and the teachers, to visit his classroom, and to enjoy a bit of ice-cream while dozens of other kids worked out their sugar-frenzy in the cafeteria. After listening to AJ’s teacher’s first presentation to her incoming class of kindergarteners and the milling parents, Jennifer and I hung around till we were the last ones in the class (we didn’t want to seem to brag in front of the other parents — we tend to keep that kind of outrageousness on my weblog). We introduced AJ, introduced ourselves, and got to work on sounding her out — and setting expectations.
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“I know every parent says this, but AJ is very bright,” I said. “He already meets or exceeds almost every one of the goals in your curriculum except for maybe social skills and social studies.” She nodded and looked to AJ. Of course, he was tight-lipped. No showing off on cue — too bad we didn’t rehearse this. We let her know that AJ is currently on medication for ADHD and that he’s reading at the 2nd or 3rd grade level at least, and that his hyperactivity, curiosity, and intellectual development might wreak havoc in her class due to boredom. She assured us that this was no problem, and she told us her strategy for teaching exceptional students. We liked it. We liked her. We were assured. After a couple minutes small-talk, we wandered down to the cafeteria for our ice-cream, then beat a hasty retreat to put the kids in bed.
The long walk to academia.
Now, today. We take AJ to school and escort him to the cafeteria. We do the hugs and kisses thing, I remind him to be good for the teacher, and to obey everything she says to do, and we send him off.
Within seconds, we became mere background. There were kids! Kids everywhere! Soon enough, AJ is edging his way to the front of the line as Mrs. Russell marches her new brood off to the classroom, where the government does its parenting best.
Our role has now officially diminished. Or, at least, changed. It’s final. We have the paperwork (and a quieter house) to prove it.
Three hours later, we’re back to pick him up. And what do you know? First thing out of the gate: “Oh, you’re AJ’s mom! We … uh … need to talk.”
Getting a head start, already.
So it seems AJ’s first day in class was a raging success. He even got the Special Ed teacher involved. What with his interrogating the teacher (“What happens if the filament breaks?”), correcting her use of language (“It’s a ‘backpack,’ not a ‘book-bag!'”), instructing other students (“Hey, that ‘Z’ is backward!”), spilling the puzzle-pieces (“We all had to help clean it up.”), and a minor territorial skimish (“Some kid stole my seat!”), the teacher and support staff are guaranteed to already know his name. I’m not even sure we need to send him off with his name-tag tomorrow. “Oh, you have somebody bouncing off the padded walls in the gymnasium? That would be AJ Tatum.”
:: sigh ::
But, don’t take my word for it. I have a 24-minute (16-megabyte) podcast interview with AJ that I recorded just this afternoon, while the events were still fresh in his memory. Sure, it’s no theological treatise, and it won’t win any Grammy awards for best audio interview, and it’s not up to NPR-snuff. But I found myself giggling like a silly dad when listening to it all over again this evening. This is totally unscripted and only lightly edited from the original.
If you’re up for that sort of thing download it here. Or you can listen online.
If you have any encouragement or words of wisdom for AJ, post ‘em here. I’ll be sure to pass it along.
Notes on the music used in this podcast:
- Intro: James Hersch, “On the Bus,” from Cow, Bugs & Aardvarks
- Outro: Gunnar Madsen, “Ants in my Pants!” from Ants in my Pants!
[tags]back-to-school, BlogRodent, children, daddyblog, elementary-school, fatherhood, first-day, first-day-in-school, gunnar-madsen, interview, james-hersch, kids, kindergarten, mp3, podcast, school, secondary-education[/tags]
He is misbehaving because you are not home schooling. If you really loved him that’s what you would do.
I just wanted to be the first to bring that accusation (if you haven not gotten it already).
I know sarcasm does not translate well on the web so let it be noted that I am joking.
Our sons are quite similar. Isaac had his first day of kindergarden last week. I keep waiting for NASA to come offer him a job.
Jeremiah starts kindergarten on Monday. I don’t think a kid could be more excited.
This was awesome! AJ sounds like a wonderful kid. My Corin is 3 1/2 and just went back to Pre-K last Monday. I have a feeling that in 2 years, he’ll be having very similar experiences. He’s definitely got the ants in his pants already! (He’s even signing for “music” as the song plays — I think he likes it!)
Go get ‘em, AJ! You got a great dad there. Keep the stories coming!
LOL, thanks, Cami, for stopping by. I’ll let him know his fan base is growing … all the way out to the Left Coast even! Wahoo!
Oh, by the way, I should’ve mentioned this in my original post here, but I have an earlier “podcast” with AJ (much shorter) that you might enjoy as well:
Iâ€™m flush with Oreosâ€“or AJ doing his part to ease world hunger
Jennifer, my Bride and Mommy-of-AJ, wrote a note with her perspective on AJ’s first day for some friends, and she’s given me permission to post it here for you all to enjoy. She’s got more actual details from the teacher’s report, and it’s quite fun. Enjoy:
I’m officially the mother of a Kindergartner.
They had a meet-the-teacher open house and we talked to her about his ADHD and his intelligence, preparing her for the wonder that is our son. But, as is often the case when we try to explain AJ, she gave us the smile and nod and we could tell that in the back of her mind was “Every parent thinks their child is special …” In spite of that she told us that if he seemed a little ahead of the learning curve, she’d up his work a little. When she asks the class to identify the first letter in the word Apple and then write it, if he gets that right, she’ll ask him to also write the rest of the word. Things like that. Sounded like a good plan. She’s a wonderful lady and seems like she’s totally open to working with him at his level.
Thursday, the First Day
I got AJ up, Gave him his meds, fed him breakfast and sent him to get dressed in the outfit he’d personally picked out. He looked smashing in his dark shorts and blue-striped collared shirt. We drove him to school, Took the pictures that moms take, hugged him and sent him off to the next stage of his life.
Went back to pick him up and the teacher pulled us aside quickly with “I need to talk to you.” There was a nervous smile followed by the words I always assumed I’d hear, but still had hoped not to: “We had a really bad first day.”
She went on to explain that he was unable to remain in his seat and sometimes not even at his table. He couldn’t stop talking and interjecting examples of everything she was trying to teach. (example: “A is the first letter in apple” “Yeah, but it’s also for Alligator, Avalanche, AJ, Acorn ….”) And the worst (my word, not hers) part was that he was more bossy than a usual 5-year old. he was very, very rules-driven. When it was time to write letters, he’d tell the other kids over and over that they were doing it wrong. Eventually he’d give them his paper and tell them, “just use mine, I’ll do another one” (LOL) And really, he was just trying to help. As funny as it is, other kids don’t like to be told over and over that they are doing something new wrong. And she and the aide in the class had to constantly stand next to him and stop him from hurting others’ feelings and to give support to the other kids.
There was a Special Ed teacher in the room for a bit, too, watching another child. She couldn’t help but notice AJ. She said he was the only one in the class that could color in the lines, add embellishments to the picture, label parts of the picture, write a story around the picture — none of these things were suggested, he just did them. But she said we should talk to our doctor about the “busy-ness”. when I told her that he’s already been diagnosed and is medicated, she was shocked. Apparently, the meds did nothing to help calm him down. He was a nightmare to control — but at the same time, had the teacher laughing to herself. I think the reaction was a new place, new people and a huge desire to please others. I hope that after the newness wears off, the meds will go back to doing their thing. Otherwise, we’ll have to up the dose. And I really don’t want to do that.
One of the things that made her laugh was when she explained the bathroom to the kids. (Accessible from the classroom.) She told them: Door closed means someone is in there. Door open means it’s empty. Leave the light on all the time so kids are not afraid to go into a dark room. To which AJ replied: “What will we do if the filament in the lightbulb goes out?” That was a shocker for her. but she was quick: “We’ll ask the fix-it man to come replace it.” “But … what happens if the electricity to the school goes out and even a bulb with a new filament won’t turn on?” That had her stumped.
“We’ll deal with it when it happens.”
When I was talking to her about all of this, she was smiling and laughing about the stories, so I knew she didn’t want to insult us, only keep us up-to-speed on how he’s doing. She also admitted that when we’d told her he’s extra-smart and special, etc., the night before, that she had indeed assumed we were normal parents and didn’t really believe us. She admitted that she understood now what we meant. He’s high-functioning and hard to control. But she has high hopes for him because his brain allows him to learn things faster than normal, he’ll be able to learn the rules of the class, and she’ll continue to make Kindergarten as challenging to him as she can, even if it means bringing in books from the 4th- and 5th-grade classes for him during reading time.
I love her.
And when we walked out to the car, he said, “Mom, I LOVE school!!!!”
Side note: when we got home, I realized he’d gotten dressed, but not undressed. He still had his jammies on under his clothes.
I teach gifted Kindergarten… your use of Podcasting is precious. As I explore ways to increase technology use in my classroom, I am inspired to use the idea of interviewing in Audacity to preserve the great moments that gifted Kindergarteners supply. I listened to the complete interview and you are a FABULOUS father… you are encouraging the best in your child. AJ will go far in life. Good luck to you all!!!!
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