Four days in, and Sophie hasn’t been kicked out yet.
The first week of kindergarten is full of growing pains for all the kids, and for Sophie I think it’s been especially hard because of the heat (you try going back to school — and onto the playground — when it’s 111 degrees out, and humid) and the long day. She had long days, the last two years, but as Ms. X pointed out this afternoon, in what’s turning into our daily chat, she only went to a formal pre-school for two hours a day.
The expectations in kindergarten are high. The bedlam on Day One had turned into a pretty darn controlled environment by Day Four. (I told you Ms. X was amazing.) Even Sophie stood patiently the last two mornings, holding her backpack and lunch box, waiting to enter the classroom.
I tried spying, for a while, but that didn’t work, so I fill in the blanks from the accounts of Ms. X, and other adults who are occasionally in the classroom. (From what I can tell, Ms. X is sticking to her solemn promise to not sugarcoat Sophie’s kindergarten experience.)
The week, so far:
Monday was basically nuts for everyone.
Tuesday, Sophie had a dentist appointment, so she wasn’t there much.
Wednesday, she immediately announced she was tired, and refused to sit for carpet time. That afternoon, she zonked out when some of the other kids were resting, and actually slept through music.
But today, our little ball buster appeared.
“Wow, I’ve never seen that,” Ms. X said, sounding downright awestruck, when she called. Sophie was much better this morning (probably thanks in part to an earlier bedtime last night and my parting promise that we’d take Ms. X out for chocolate ice cream if Sophie did well today and tomorrow) but as soon as they got back from the library this afternoon, Sophie was BAD. BAD BAD BAD. Wouldn’t sit, wouldn’t put toys away. No matter what Ms. X asked or tried, she simply refused to listen.
“I told you so!” I said. “See? This is what I’ve been so worried about.”
Bless her, Ms. X sounded completely unruffled (a jaunty attitude I’m sure she’s practiced over the years). We came up with several strategies: a reward chart; time out; and, if nothing else works, time away from the group in a bean bag chair, with some books. I told Ms. X I’m most concerned that Sophie not disrupt the class or keep her from teaching.
We decided it was all workable. I hung up feeling calm; five minutes later, I was freaked. So it goes.
This morning, I told Ray I was worried about Sophie. “Me, too,” he said. “I keep thinking about what that principal at the other school said about her making more friends there.”
There is ANOTHER school, an elementary school in our district with a program for special needs kids. There’s one kid with Down syndrome there, in fourth or fifth grade. If she went there, it’s true, Sophie would get a little more support for part of the day, in a pull-out program.
When I visited, I wasn’t all that impressed. The extra services didn’t seem to outweigh the benefits of having Ms. X (assuming we could nab her as Sophie’s teacher) and having Sophie in a familiar environment.
Plus, the principal said something that day that really pissed me off. She told me there was something special about her kid at her school (even the non-special ones). “I don’t know what it is,” she told me. “There’s just something about this place. At ANOTHER school, the kids might be nice to Sophie, but they wouldn’t be her friends.”
I’d been warned, just before the meeting, by a good friend in the know, that our school — where Annabelle had gone for almost two years — has a bad reputation for being snotty and exclusive. I’d never seen it. I loved the school (still do) and was hurt that this principal would jump to such a nasty conclusion.
Plus — get this — Sophie’s IQ is too high for her to go to the “special” school. She’s not technically “mentally retarded,” so she does not even get services from the special ed teacher at her current school, let alone an entire special program.
In any case, that other principal’s just plain wrong. Sophie may have had her struggles, so far this week, but a lack of friends and people who care about her isn’t one of them.
From the first day, Sophie’s gotten (not just given!) hugs. Friends have wanted their picture taken with her.
The second day of school, when I looked away for a moment, she and Annabelle grabbed the hands of two other little girls — another kindergartener and second grader — and headed out to the playground. When it came time to gather her up for school to start, another two friends urged her in.
The third day, when we parked and got the backpacks out, Annabelle screamed, “I LOVE THIS SCHOOL!” Sophie screamed, “I LOVE ANNABELLE!”
Annabelle explained to me, “That means she loves the school because she loves me.” Makes sense.
And today, I heard that Sophie ate lunch with a group of fourth grade boys.
She’s a freaking rock star. This week, anyway.
“Oh no,” I told Ray. “The friends are why we have to make this work, at this school.”
If only I can figure out how to keep my little ball buster at bay.