Have Donut, Sit Down, Read

John started public school this week, in Mr. Dodyk’s first grade class at E.K. Powe Elementary.

This is a bit of an experiment. Last year, we sent John to a private Montessori school. He had a kind and attentive teacher. He was able to learn some advanced math (cubes, square roots, division) and the geography of most of Africa and Asia.  Still, there were other things that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why, for example, should a student be allowed to not do what he or she doesn’t want to do? Shouldn’t there be a place for following orders? Even if your child comes from a progressive middle class family?

Seriously, though, there is a lot of difference this year. I could tell when we got our first contact from DPS. It was a robocall – “Beinvenidos a Durham.” It went on to express how well we would like kindergarten.

Parents day seemed ok.  We enter the building and are immediately confronted by a crowded hallway.  All of the teachers are explaining things to the parents in Spanish. Susie and I realize that this is going to be different than Overton or Arrowhead.

Powe, with its Title I funding, limits its class size to just 16 kids. John has 11 other boys and four girls in his room.  I could see that we were going to be lucky with some things.  John was sitting opposite to Owen.  Owen came in the room shortly after we arrived. Owen ran up to John, as they swam together a lot this summer at the Faculty Club.  They didn’t say hi, or anything normal.  They each jumped a bit in the air and bumped chests.

John didn’t like that there were no chapter books.

“You can go to the library,” said Mr. Dodyk.  I can tell that I am going to like him.

Day One

John comes home very happy.  I can tell, but I want to know why.

“I broke my pencil,” he says.

Well, I see how that would be exciting.

“I broke my pencil and Seku gave me one of his,” he says.

This is great.  Seku is going to be a second friend for John, I can tell already.

John is not happy about lunch.  The school served chicken fingers.  John brought his lunch.  He missed out on the chicken.  We tell him he can eat lunch the next day, except that tomorrow’s main dish is yogurt.  Oh, and Thursday’s main meal is cheese nachos.

Day Two

“This is a stupid place,” says John.  His head is buried in Susie’s lap. “I don’t ever want to go back there.”

Turns out that public school does have its own share of problems.  John hasn’t been around kids that are ready to go toe-to-toe with an authority figure. Derek, for example, has managed to get sent home already. Two other boys were just one warning short of similar treatment – they had to call home and explain why they were in trouble.

John brings home a black and white drawing.  It says “I feel sad.”

I sort of wonder if it is the kids, or the environment, that makes acting out such a problem.  That is of course my natural reaction, as a liberal.  But how much sense does it to offer free and reduced breakfast for kids, when the meal that is served is a breakfast donut with chocolate milk?

Day Three

John comes home happier today.

“Did you know that there is a big room at the end of the hall?” he asks.  “Did you know that they have a big stage there? Did you know that they have a trophy there.  My school got a trophy, for being such a good school.”

Susie got him to school a bit too late this morning.  It was five minutes to nine.  Granted, the bus hadn’t arrived yet.  But, Seku and Owen were waiting for John before school. They waved to him through the window.

“Seku is my second best friend,” says John.

John’s favorite was recess.  His special, “technology,” was not so great.

“We didn’t do anything,” he says.  “Not even baby stuff.”   Derek, it appears, missed recess again.

Susie sends a riddle to school in John’s lunch box: why did the farmer call his pig “ink?” – Because he kept running out of the pen.

Day Four

Today’s special is art.  Students at E.K. Powe get a special every day.

John was allowed to go to the library today.  Checking books will have to wait, though – the school won’t be up to speed on that until next week.

John comes home with some good news.  He’s been selected by Mr. Dodyk for the advanced and gifted program.

Mr. Dodyk did math today.  John refused to participate.  He got his first blue card.  The exercise was intended to teach counting.  It goes like this:

Mr. Dodyk:   one, two, three, four…

Class: Buzz!

Mr. Dodyk: six, seven, eight, nine…

Class: Buzz!

Susie meets with one of the mothers (Jen).  I turns out that there is a solid block of parents at this school, mostly from the other side of our walk zone. John brings home some “homework” from Mr. Dodyk.  It is a note to the parents, asking for our signature under a statement that says that we (parents) spoke to our children about school at least one time this week.


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