First Day of School

Rosie and John started school this morning. They’re both going to be at the same school, George Watts Montessori Magnet Elementary. I like that it is just one block from our home. We can walk there in the mornings. We walked there this morning. We were accompanied by others. There are five other households with kids at Watts on our block, and several more in the adjacent block.

I held Rosie’s hand as walked up the street. It was raining a bit. The air was damp and cool. It felt like summer was over. I hated that feeling as a kid. Even if I was excited about getting back to school, which I usually was, it still felt like an irreversible loss. Summer was over, virtually forever.

Summer: S'Mores

Summer: Racing

Summer: Check out my new pocket knife

Rosie didn’t say much. Mostly, she seemed hesitant. We could see her classroom when we sat outside waiting for the doors to open. I held her up so that she could see, but instead, she just put her arms around me in a tight hug.

Last night, Rosie woke up in the middle of the night. “Daddy,” she said, “none of my friends are in my class.”

“But you are going to make a lot of friends, I promise.” It is true. She has a lot of friends at this school, but none of them are in Ms. Watson’s class with her. In fact, there are only two other girls in first grade in the class. There are supposed to be more girls in the kindergarten class.

Last night, John reached out to Mr. Dodyk, his teacher from E.K. Powe.  Mr. Dodyk moved to Florida. He fell in love and followed her down to Alachua County where he is now teaching in an elementary school. Mr. Dodyk was a great teacher. He mastered the art of getting through to John. John sent him an email last night. His message:

Tomorrow is my first day of school. I feel like summer vacation passed so quickly. Over summer vacation my family went to Camp Seafarer.  I really miss the combination that first grade had. My teacher is Ms. Vevjoda. I’m really excited about going into second grade. I can’t believe that this is the fourth school I’ve been to. I really miss the traditional classrooms. I really hope that I get work that’s on my level at least once or twice. I hardly got any work on my level last time I was in montessori. In your class, a lot more work was at my level than in montessori.


Mr. Dodyk answered him later in the evening.

Re: message from John Rust
It is so wonderful to hear from you. I always appreciate when students reach out to say hello!  I wish you the best of luck on your first day tomorrow. I know how scary it can be starting at a new school, but you are lucky to have some good friends in your class. Working together with classmates and sharing ideas is a wonderful way for you to challenge yourself and discover wonderful new ideas that you would like to learn about. Sometimes, when you tell your teacher what you would like to do, she can make that come true. Thank you again for contacting me and I know you will do great this year!

Mr. Dodyk

John is going to second grade. He has lots of friends in his class – Elijah, Webb, and August. “This is my fourth school in four years,” he told us. That is true. He went to Beth-El for three years, but since then, we’ve moved him twice. I’m hoping that he is at Watts for the rest of elementary school. It just depends on how he handles the Montessori curriculum. Montessori gives students more freedom. This is a public school, so they still have to meet the NCLB standards, but there is still plenty of latitude. This is also going to be a classroom where he’ll have plenty of competition.

John came home happy. Susie asked him to rank his day, 1 to 100. “It was a 99 1/2,” he said. The subject today was finding a Peace Arrangement. John suggested two rules: have respect for other people’s ideas, and have respect for other people’s bodies. Other rules were also put forward: no kissing, and everybody should share. When I was putting him down for bed, he said “I really like my school. I really like my room.”  Good.

Rosie was mixed. I often think she puts on a face when she’s feeling insecure. She furrows her brow, makes a fist, and stamps her feet. It’s a big show for a little girl. I know Rosie is going to love school. School is meant for people like her – careful, deliberate, purposeful.


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