We decided to send Luke to the Title 1 school. Truly, trying it out was the most logical thing to do.
We got to meet Luke’s teacher and see his classroom the day before he started. She was very sweet. Luke was quite shy and wouldn’t answer her questions with anything more than, “I don’t know,” but she was very patient with him. He was mostly interested in the names of the people in his class, so while the teacher got more papers together for us, we walked around and looked at all the name tags. In Luke’s class in South Carolina, there was a disproportionate number of Bible names: Matthew, John, Benjamin, Isaac, Caleb, Joshua, and so on. The only name that stood out was Luke’s friend, Raphael, but that at least allowed us to introduce Luke to
classical art the Ninja Turtles. Here, the name that stood out was “Luke.” In between the Suri’s and Ja’Quarious’s were names like Poue, which I didn’t even try to pronounce. I know I sound like such a jerk highlighting all of this, but to be honest, I was just worried that Luke was going to be uncomfortable. And maybe some discomfort would be beneficial so that he wouldn’t turn out like his ethnocentric mother, but…he’s five! He’s been through some huge transitions lately, and I didn’t want to put him in a situation where he wasn’t going to be happy.
The teacher interrupted my reverie with, “Luke, I think we will sit you next to Pew.” Ohhh, so that’s how you said Poue! ”Poue is a sweet little boy from Burma.” Luke did not bat an eye to any of this, and we finished up our meeting with the exciting news that I would be able to volunteer in the classroom once a week. Luke’s school in SC had been locked up like Fort Knox during the day (which I appreciated), but part of their security was that they did not allow parents in the classrooms, except for the room mom on special occasions. That had been a bitter disappointment, as I had always envisioned myself being an active volunteer in Luke’s school and getting to know his classmates.
We left on that Monday with plans to start Luke in the morning. Here’s how things went from there:
Monday afternoon: Luke’s teacher emails me with some suggestions about making Luke’s transition easier and to schedule my volunteer time.
Tuesday morning: Luke goes to school happily.
Tuesday mid-morning: Luke’s teacher emails me to tell me Luke is doing fine.
Tuesday afternoon: We pick up a beaming Luke, who announces that he loves school and that he and Poue had fun on the playground where they ran from another boy who pretended to be a dinosaur. I check his bookbag, and there is a note from Luke’s teacher saying that he had a great day. There is also the library book that Luke picked out, called The Big Red Lollipop, that tells a great story about learning to fit into a new culture.
After reading it, Anna spends the next three days drawing big, red lollipops. That afternoon, Luke’s teacher emails me again to tell me that Luke had a great day and that she’s excited to have him in her class.
Wednesday morning: Anna and I attend a Writing Workshop for parents of kindergartners in the school’s lunchroom. There are about twenty parents there, some needing translators, and we hear tips from the directors of the public library on how to encourage our kids to read and write. There is a lot of helpful information given (along with refreshments, which was a big draw for me:)). At the end, we all got a bag with a slew of free stuff, including a book and a little chalkboard and chalk. Sweet!
Your tax dollars at work, Tennesseans (and well spent, if I do say so myself)!
Wednesday afternoon: Luke comes home all smiles again, full of tales of fun times on the playground and in the classroom. They even got to go to the library to watch a puppet show. He tells me that since he loves his new class so much, he is going to draw two pictures for them, one for the boys and one for the girls. Right when he gets home, he goes straight to work. He draws a Batman scene for the boys, and a princess scene for the girls.
On the back of the boys’ picture he writes this message [edited to remove personal info]:
Dear [Name of school] kindergarten
Mrs. _________’s class.
The picture is of Batman.
If you do not like Batman, text [our street address].
In his book bag is another note from the teacher saying that she assessed Luke for progress reports and was very impressed. Later, I receive another email from her telling me that Luke reminds her of her son. She also says that he is very bright and that she recommended him for the Encore program, which is TN’s gifted program.
Thursday: Another great day, and another written note and email from his teacher. That night, we went to their “Book Fair” at Barnes and Noble. It was more like a fundraiser, where 10% of the proceeds of your purchase went to the school. Regardless, the kids had fun, and we capped off the evening with dinner at Chickfila.
Friday: After school, Luke walks toward me in the parking lot, trying (and failing) to suppress a smile. When he gets up to me, he beams with pride and holds out the little plastic tooth that is on the string around his neck: he lost his first tooth! At school! It happened at the end of another great day, and he got to go to the office to get his special necklace. He had a great day, even with a substitute (which I knew about because the teacher had emailed me the night before, and put it in the newsletter).
Today, (Monday), I was supposed to go volunteer in Luke’s class, but Luke woke up sick, so we will have to postpone. The teacher wrote me on Thursday to let me know that she’d like me to read one of our books to the class (Luke picked The Pigeon Wants a Puppy) and to help the students make turkey handprints. It sounded super fun, but I wrote her this morning explaining that I would have to reschedule. I wanted to save the update until after I had been in the classroom, but I’m going to go ahead and publish it. We are all enjoying Luke’s new Title 1, High Priority school. The teacher-parent communication has been top notch; there are tons of opportunities to get involved; and Luke is loving all of his classmates. It remains to be seen whether the school will properly challenge him educationally, but right now, we could not be happier about his school. We prayed so much before choosing to send him there, and I am so grateful that God seems to to have been watching over us as we made our choice!