Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Students on bored

During one of those gross, incredibly hot, humid dog days of mid-August, I asked Jack and a friend if they were looking forward to going back school, now that they were going to be eighth graders. Big Men on the Totem Pole. Kings of the School, etc. (I know, I know... as if they were going to pipe up with anything but a collective groan).

"I wish I were going to kindergarten," Jack's friend mused.

"Not me," said Jack. "Kindergarten was lame. All you did was learn that two plus two equals four and have nap-time." Spoken like my true eager-to-learn youngest. (At least that is how I have chosen to look at him through my rose-colored shades and all.)

"Actually," he amended, "we didn't need the stupid nap-time then. That was dumb. We weren't even tired. We need nap-time now because we have to get up at 6:15 in the morning! They should give us nap-time!" His friend hooted his approval of this thought.

If any members of the Board of Ed are reading this, and can rectify the matter, Jack would be pretty pleased. And nap-time might be more feasible than the later start time thing.

I believe many parents pose the same question to their offspring and friends of their offspring as I did above, because - really and honestly now - it is we who are excited and looking forward to school starting. It's not that we wouldn't mind maybe another few days of summer, but after eight-plus weeks of kids under foot, maybe whining hither and thither about being bored, the structure of a school day and the six or so hours of not being on call loom pleasantly welcome.

Even though our child may not openly (or at least enthusiastically) cop to being excited for the new year ahead, he or she is usually anticipating some aspect. There's the stunningly big-kid feel the just-entering-kindergarten child experiences; the trepidation the incoming middle schooler tastes; the relief at not being a freshman that the high school sophomore enjoys, or the pure giddy yet at the same time terrifying sensation inherent in the senior-to-be.

Just as it isn't always so easy to get a kid to admit to their anticipation of returning to school, so to is it not such a piece of cake getting them to reveal how said school days are going for them.

Ask, "How's school?," and be prepared for "good," even if it wasn't, or "boring," even - again - if it wasn't. Occasionally the response may be: "bad." But do not ask "Why?" because nine out of 10 times, you won't get an answer. At least not right away. Although your brain is screaming, "Why-why-why, omigod why, what happened?!" please resist. Instead, try in a less inquisitive, less frantic manner the following: "Oh that's too bad, honey. Well, if you want to talk about it I'm here. All ears." Either they will launch into it, or they will wait a few beats, or maybe even a few hours. Try not to pressure them, as whatever it was that is making them describe the day as "bad" is giving them pressure enough. Their definition of "bad" may more than likely equal a disappointing grade, or a confusing lecture, or a poor performance in gym class. Of course it could also be a bullying incident or an unrequited crush. When they are ready to spill, let them, resisting the urge to editorialize or "fix it" immediately (except in the case of taunting or physical bullying, of course).

The other response to "How was school?" is the ubiquitous: "School is boring." Sure. Of course it is, sweetie. You are such a brainiac that you don't need to be learning anything new. You can read, write, solve mathematical and scientific questions in your sleep. Who needs to know about the history of this country or any other for that sake! Music and art? Pishaw - you could teach the class yourself you creative king or queen of the world, you!

"Boring" my backside.

All of my kids at one time or another claimed to like recess the best. They expressed annoyance that recess stops in high school, until I would remind them of the free periods which would exist in their school schedule.

"It's the same thing. Only better," I said.

And don't you know? Even the free period has been described as, wait for it... "boring."

Maybe if those free periods were re-designated as nap-time?

I think I'm onto something here...

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