The Start Of An Education- January 10, 2016

It came up so fast. For months we’ve been saying “We register our daughter for Kindergarten in January!” I’ve had many deep conversations with other parents of 4 and 5 year-old’s about school assignments, calendar options, rankings, test scores, magnet schools, Montessori, language immersion, private school tuition…the list goes on. A mother of a first grader laughed at me and some other moms the other day. She laughed at us with all her wisdom and quipped, “Oh! You guys are the first to EVER send your kids to kindergarten!”

A tweet from Thursday:

kindergarten tweet

Our large public school system is both heralded and criticized. It’s heralded for excellence in public education. It’s criticized for reassignments and lots of snow days in the often wet, icy winters here in the south. Parents have lots of options for school choice, with limited numbers in each school as our area grows. This is overwhelming for first time parents. I find it overwhelming and I’m a product of this school system and my mother has been a teacher in the district for nearly 30  years. When I was a local TV news reporter I covered the turmoil of a school board election and aftermath that changed the politics and makeup of the system. Even with that insider look at the history of our public schools, it was still overwhelming. Would our assignment change even though we bought a house practically on top of the elementary school I wanted her to attend? Was I unnecessarily mean to our realtor two years ago when I said, “No! Try again, THIS is the school we want!!!”? I feel very fortunate that we did get the school I had so hoped for. Many of my other friends are not as lucky as they tour schools while their child’s name remains on a waiting list. Others protest assignment changes at school board meetings. It’s crazy, ya’ll.

Last week I compiled the long list of documents needed to officially enroll a 5 year-old into the educational system. Birth certificate, proof of residency, immunization records etc. Good God! How many times to I have to write our address?! I asked my mom what she had to do to register me for kindergarten. She laughed at me, promising I wouldn’t remember this in 30 years. It was indeed 30 years ago. The 1986-’87 school year was when I went into kindergarten. I reminded her I was documenting this on the Internet in 2016, so I WOULD remember. Different times. I dutifully paperclipped the stack of forms together and was third in line to register at our school.

A smiling employee helped sign me in and give me a visitors badge. It had been a long time since I entered the colorful, florescent lit halls of an elementary school. She directed me to the “Media Center.” Huh? Oh! That’s right, that’s what they call the library in elementary school. As a kid I always assumed the tape players with blue headphones made it a media center and not just a library. They don’t have those headphones anymore. It was fancier than my media center with the few old IBM’s I remember. I got a ticket, sat with my younger child and fed him the cookies the PTA offered. I recognized some parent volunteers from the neighborhood pool, getting a glimpse of the volunteering that would likely be in my future.

When my ticket number was called I took my forms to two other employees who quickly photocopied everything like they had done this a million times. I sat there, answering their questions like it was clearly my first time. They were kind but hasty. I could tell they had dealt with many new kindergarten parents over the years. We are a year-round school so the schedule or “track” you are assigned is a big deal. Everyone has a preference and you are not guaranteed your preference. I asked about this briefly before she said, “Okay, you’re all set!”

Wait. That was it? Some photocopies?!

This was my brain as I stared before standing and walking back across the media center:

“Wait! No hug? But, I just registered my first born for kindergarten! My baby! My super special snowflake will be in your charge for the next six years. Wait, thirteen years, and ya’ll don’t want to make a HUGE DEAL out of this?!”

Nope. They kinda just wanted to get to the next parent. They had to get to more first time kindergarten parents who believe their babies are the most special snowflakes in the pile of snow. I looked at the other parents who all also had become parents in late 2010 or 2011. They too had looks of wonder at how this had happened so fast.

Okay school system, my snowflake is all yours. May she happily pile on the school’s roof, making it scenic and not be a flake that helps ice over the roads.


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