Friday, September 10, 2010

Learning it all in kindergarten

Ethan will complete his 2nd week of Kindergarten this week, and I realized that he is now at an age that I also remember. I went to Kindergarten at Mrs. Wilkes which was a classroom in the back of her dentist husband's office in Twin Falls.

I was in the "morning" class like Ethan is, and I met kids in Kindergarten who I knew all through school and even college.

I doubt Ethan will have such lifelong acquaintances because today's world is so transitory. Age-old traditions of school boundaries seem blurred in the era of "school of choice, charter schools, magnet schools, on-line schools, etc."

But I digress. The biggest lesson I've learned -- this is my blog after all -- is that we evidently do need "stinkin' rules." I have read the Monroe Elementary School Handbook cover to cover several times. I know that at 10:15 every day, my son has recess. I know that he has PE one day, music one day, and art another day. What I didn't know -- because it's not covered in any written material nor is it posted anywhere on the school grounds or the parking lot -- is that there are strict rules about walking across the parking lot, riding one's bike on school grounds, etc.

The school utilizes a volunteer parent to essentially be the parking lot monitor ("Parking Nazi" is on the tip of my fingers as I type). The parent assigned is actually a neighbor and friend. However, on several occasions, she has taken us to task for what are evidently violations of some sort. "Some sort" because the rules aren't written or posted anywhere that I can find.

"How many times do I have to tell you NOT to walk across the parking lot?" Well, perhaps explaining it initially would be a start because the "many times" admonishment is not accurate. Oh, and, when you park on the street, get out of your vehicle, check for cars, walk through the really small parking lot between you and the small strip of grass where you have to wait for your kid, and the parking lot is virtually empty with no cars coming or going, what is the problem?

"You can't ride your bike in the parking lot!" So, a 5 year old, excited to ride his bike to school for the first time like a big boy with his new bike lock -- with his mother walking quickly behind -- rides down the public sidewalk, turns into the parking lot though completely hugging the outermost edge, and gets yelled at? Come on! Really? How about a quiet conversation first?

I'm all for safety. I'm fine with rules. I appreciate the responsibility of herding grade-schoolers. But there is also common sense and courtesy.

There was a cliche' ridden booked called "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" that was quite popular years ago. I suspect it was in every Christmas stocking that winter and every yard sale table that summer. But, in the spirit of that book, what I've learned thus far about Ethan's Kindergarten experience is that there are unwritten rules, subjective interpretations, inconsistent enforcement, simmering resentments, power trips, and confusion. So, perhaps it is like life after all!