Tuesday, April 03, 2007

You Went To School To Learn, Girl

Last night, as we were sitting outside watching Miss M sing and sign her way through an unbearably cute and thoughtfully brief Montessori Centennial program, I realized it's been almost exactly one year since she began attending her school. It's hard to recognize that so much time has passed since her squirming, screaming body was wrenched from mine. Lovingly wrenched, of course. The thing that most impressed and comforted me as Miss M spent her first days away from my constant presence was knowing that the staff was looking out for her emotional needs just as much as her social and educational ones. They acknowledged her need for a temporary pseudo-mom and let her spend her first couple months attached to them rather than pushing her out onto her peers. Their experience gave them patience with her shyness, into which she retreated for several weeks. I was surprised when I picked her up one day and a teacher exclaimed happily, "She's talking now!" It hadn't occurred to me at that point that my little stream-of-consciousness reporter wouldn't be talking, although having seen her work through an increased number of new social situations over the past year, I now realize that's her M.O. But her teachers understood the pattern right away, and rather than stressing either of us out about it, they helped her find her place and get comfortable enough to show her true self.

As I wrote after our parent-teacher conference, Miss M has more than found her place - she has set up a fiefdom. She has a gaggle of friends, a stunning new skill set, and the love of her teachers. All in all, it's a perfect situation. The only problem lately is that she's decided she doesn't want to learn her letters, and this pains me. Not only because she says it makes her "feel shy" when she tries to practice them, which I interpret to mean that she's encountering those first prickles of shame at not being able to catch on to something as quickly as other kids, but also because, what? My kid? Not being interested in letters? This is a possibility I hadn't considered. While Kristy is trying to overcome her math-phobia on behalf of her offspring, I'm now trying to let go of the expectation that my child will be the voracious reader that every other woman in our family is. When my first grade class had library time, I was given special permission to wander away from the picture books and indulge in the high shelves of chapter books. My sister made reading into an Olympic sport, breaking world records as she sped through Little Women for the ninth time. And I can't even think of my mom without picturing a book in front of her. She could even fall dead asleep and still manage to balance an open book on her chest. (Usually one about a serial killer, the cover illustrated with various bloody, dismembered body parts embossed on a creepy, domestic tableau of a background, but that's a traumatic recollection for another day. Oh, and happy birthday, Mom!)

I don't really even recall learning how to read - it was just something I could do, almost from the time of my earliest memories. I don't know if I ever resisted it, or got frustrated by the trickier elements - silent letters, irregular verbs, what a participle was and how to avoid dangling one. The only performance-based school activity I never dreaded was reading out loud. But it has recently come to my attention that The Admiral was just the opposite. I've never known the man to sit down with a novel, but he can burn through an electrical engineering textbook like it's the latest Patterson confection, so I was surprised when we were talking about school memories and he shuddered in remembrance of being called on to read aloud. He abhorred it. It terrified him. I daresay it made him "feel shy." Knowing this, and seeing Miss M's reaction to the dreaded letter boards, has forced me to dump my prejudices against "non-readers" and acknowledge that a passion for fiction isn't necessarily a predictor of future success.

Her ability to perfectly time every movement to their choreographed school song, however, clearly indicates she's an unstoppable genius.


Unknown said...

Just be patient. I believe the syllabus states that 19th-century literature is covered just after "buttoning" and "water pouring."

Stacey Greenberg said...

i was most impressed by the performance. the fact that satchel actually stood front and center and sang along was outstanding. where di my little shy boy go?

and why didn't i bring a camera??