Back to School: Meeting the First Grade Teacher on Not My Best Day Ever

BlogHer Original Post

My mind was on other things. The building smelled like a school, save it was missing the scent of chalk dust I remembered. Sweat, floor wax, crayons.

Another family prepared to leave as my husband, daughter and I entered her first-grade classroom. I noticed the desks in a circle and immediately began scanning the names to determine if they were boys or girls. Boy, boy, boy, boy, boy ... I felt like crying. Last year, there were only five girls in my daughter's kindergarten class, and it was a bad experience. I'd written the principal, outlining the problem of so few girls, how little girls work, how there has to be someone left over to be friends with when those who you thought liked you turned.

He said he'd do what he could.

And I was already upset about something else, something personal, and totally drained from BlogHer last weekend. I looked at this poor teacher angrily and asked how many boys versus girls there were in the class. She looked taken aback, counted the desks.

"Twelve boys and six girls," she said.

I felt my hands starting to shake with anger.

"I specifically asked that she be in a more evenly split class this year," I began, my voice edged.

Her smile grew hard. "This is a very boy-heavy class," she said. "I can assure you we do everything we can to make sure things are even." She glanced at my daughter pointedly. "I'm sure she'll have a wonderful year, anyway!"

My stomach hurt. Not only had I pissed off my kid's first-grade teacher, a perfectly agreeable-looking woman in a purple dress and flowered flip flops, but I'd probably scared my daughter, too, my daughter for whom I only wanted a good year.

I glanced at my girl's desk. "Look!" I said. "You know what I notice is different about this room? You have a real big-kid desk, not like the tables in kindergarten."

In my head, I told myself to pull it together, already and wished for a huge, fluffy bed in which I could hide for at least a week. So much happening. Not ready for first grade. Ruining everything.

Somehow I managed to fake my way back to a cheery disposition, asking the teacher about her son and pointing out to my daughter the free reading books were right behind her, just as they should be.

She stared at her desk with boys' names flanking her on each side. She slid her hands into the opening where her school supplies would go. I watched a flurry of emotions cross her face -- she is not good at hiding her thoughts, either. Fear. Excitement. Fear. Excitement. Exhaustion.

We thanked the teacher. I pointed out I should be grateful there are fewer than twenty kids in a large suburban public school system's first grade class. She nodded.

And then we left, fighting the tide back through the families, mothers in surgical scrubs and dads in khakis, sweaty kids with wild eyes, smiling teachers and administrators dressed to kill. My husband took my daughter, and as I walked to the car through air thick as a washcloth, I let the tears roll down my cheeks. People probably thought I was upset about her going to school, but that wasn't it, not really.

The tears released that control I never really had in the first place over her school experience.

Rita Arens authors Surrender Dorothy and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.

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