Gleek and I climbed into the car and I backed out of the driveway. We were our way to meet her new Fourth Grade teacher and to take a quick reading test. Gleek sat quietly in her seat. Subdued. Not a typical emotional state for her.
“Are you worried about school starting?” I asked her.
“Yeah.” she said quietly.
“Last year was pretty hard.” I said, hoping to give words to her feelings.
Gleek nodded and blinked several times in a way which is common when she is trying not to cry. She was so small in her seat, even though she has grown this summer. Usually she fills more space by sheer force of personality.
“This year will not be that hard.” I tried to reassure her. “I won’t let it be. We’ll do whatever we have to do.” I didn’t say that my determination extends to switching her to a charter school or pulling her out of public school completely. Home school is not something I want to do, but I will if she needs it. Gleek and I both need to give her current school, with its current administration, a solid chance to be better. I need to know that we did everything we could before leaving. So I didn’t tell her about the escape routes I have already begun to map. She would want to run down them now.
We get to the school and meet the young, soft-spoken teacher. I study her as she interacts with Gleek. Will this teacher be able to handle my child? I could not tell. Gleek was tense in the classroom. She got angry over her handwriting and spelling on a quick survey. I saw Gleek ready to burst with anger, and I looked at the mild-seeming teacher. I worried. Then came Gleek’s turn to read, and Teacher spent quite a bit of time talking with Gleek about books. Teacher listened respectfully and made a solid suggestion about how Gleek can find books in the school library. I sat silent, hoping things will be well.
We left the classroom and Gleek began to chatter. She noted that one of the trio of boys who were troublesome last year is in her class.
“But he’s kind of okay. As long as B isn’t in my class. B is like Captain Hammer for Dr. Horrible. A nim … ner…”
“Nemesis?” I supply the word.
“Yeah. B is my nimisis.”
I nod and continue to listen as she relives some of the altercations she had with B last year. Most of them I’d already heard, a few I hadn’t. I will check the class listing for B. I suspect that the trio of boys has been deliberately split into different classes and that Gleek will not be trapped in a room with her nemesis. The answer will add another tick into either the worry column or the hopeful one.
We returned home and the day moved onward. In the afternoon it was Link I loaded into the car for a trip to a school. He also was quiet in the car, but this is normal for him. When we walked into the Junior High Building, I watched his stride. He walks on his toes when he is nervous. He clomped along slouchedly. He has adapted to the idea of Junior High and is looking forward with more anticipation than apprehension.
“How long will this take?” Link asked
“I don’t know. We have to fill out some forms, pay school fees, and pick up your schedule.” I pointed out the multiple lines we would need to stand in before we were done.
Link scowled. He’s become quite good at scowling this summer. Most of the time it is a humor-filled scowl, not an angry one. It matches his leaner face and his greater height. He’ll be taller than I am soon. We stood in lines, mostly silent, except when my worries spill into words.
“So you know how A days and B days work, right?”
“Yes mom.” Link rolled his eyes.
“You go to four classes on A days and four different classes on B days.” I continued, compelled to state the information just in case he doesn’t know what he thinks he knows. I’m constantly startled by astonishing gaps in my children’s knowledge, this leads me to repeating important information until the kids roll their eyes at me.
“I know mom.” Link said, then he turned to wave to some kids that he knew.
We collected his schedule and discovered that the Co-taught English class, which will help Link with is writing, is taught by the same teacher that Kiki loved in 7th grade. We also discovered that Link has been scheduled for German rather than the writing review class I discussed with his counselor last spring. Link was pleased. He wanted German, not more writing practice.
We tromped through the hall so Link could find his locker and open it. I made him do it twice, not because he needed to, but because I wanted to quiet the voice in my brain that worries for him. Junior high can be tough. He’s going to have a lot thrown at him in the next few weeks. So I make him practice his locker combo. One less thing to be new next week.
Papers in hand, we headed home. Next Tuesday he’ll climb on the bus and navigate those hallways solo. I wonder if he’ll be worried about it between now and then or if today’s calm will hold.