Welcome to Loyal Reader #51, David Ginsberg!
And yes, Rena, you have moved out of "Loyal Reader in Abstentia" and are now accorded FULL Loyal Reader (#52) benefits! Look out for the aliyahbyaccident Elegant Foil Sukkah Decoration coming your way in the mail!
Last night we had Ariella's first grade parent meeting. This was my first time being on the parent side of Open School/Meet the Teacher/Sit in Tiny Chair Night. For seven years I was the nervous, dry-mouthed teacher, spitting out my little shpiel and hoping no one asked questions and/or complained too much. ("The homework's too hard! The homework's too easy! I don't like the way you teach subtraction! That's not how I learned it, and you see, I am a very successful doctor/lawyer/Wall Street exec/tax evader! Also, why do you teach script? I just type everyting and as yuo cna seee it alwys works ot wlle!")
But for the most part, my parents were well-behaved. (Not MY parents; the parents of my students. My parents are a whole different story.) Most of them were just itching to get out of my presentation because they had twelve other presentations to attend. The English teacher and Hebrew teacher each had twenty minutes (that's forty altogether, kids. See? My method works also.), and that was it. They generally refrained from asking too many questions, mostly wanted to hear what my homework policy was, and should the occasional parent become belligerent, Milly was always patrolling, making sure nothing got out of hand.
Well, folks, welcome to Israel. First of all, the meeting was scheduled for an hour and a quarter! 6:30 - 7:45. How much is there possibly to say??? Donny left work at 4:00, was home a little after six, and I ran out to grab a good spot in a little chair. Ariella's teacher, Moriah, is super-sweet and really on top of things. So far, we're happy. The parents gathered, and filled out a questionnaire about their kids ("What does your child like?" Winning. "What makes your child sad?" Not winning. Cynicism aside, though, Ariella is so super-thrilled with first grade and the work and the morahs and the activities, that for the question, "What do you hope for your child this year?" I could only write that "Her love of learning should continue!" Amen. Now back to our regularly scheduled snark.)
And yes, I filled out the questionnaire in Hebrew. And I understood all of the presentation that I paid attention to. So after a few quiet writing moments, we all went around the room, saying our names and child's name and one thing about our child. I said that Ariella likes to draw, play Tag ("Tofeset") and ask questions. The first part of the evening went swimmingly. Moriah explained her philosophy (be nice, have your things and come on on time), talked about what is emphasized in first grade (niceness and vowel sounds), and the daily schedule (something, something, lunch, recess, and more something).
But as the evening wore on, the parents got punchier. These two smart-ass dads in the back kept asking obnoxious questions and making jokes. Then at 7:30, the thing is half over (yes, only half, we weren't dismissed until 8:10), this one mom walks in. Moriah was in the middle of explaining some school policy about sicknesses, and this mom, before she even sits down, starts arguing. Loudly. And belligerently. Well, things soon spiraled out of hand, and every time Moriah tried to get out of her mouth, someone interrupted and it became VERY LOUD.
Now, my attention span is about the same as a first grader's (well, not Ariella's; hers is longer than mine) so I was already fidgeting, looking at my watch, and generally not paying attention. I tuned in and out the last half hour, but the deafening roar in my ears made it hard to hear what Moriah was trying to say.
You have to give her credit, though. I was in tears just imagining myself as the teacher. Moriah took it in stride. She "shniya'ed" with the best of them and was very patient, even with annoying Angry Late Mom, writing down everyone's concerns ("The bathrooms aren't cleaned often enough!") and promising to take them up with the powers that be.
Now, before I continue to poke fun at school, let me add this disclaimer that we are actually very happy with the school and teacher. We've been very impressed with everything so far, starting from the day we visited last January, to the individual meeting Ariella had over the summer, to the first week of school. And the school's emphasis on the arts is perfect for Ariella. So we're thrilled, especially considering the state of education in Israel, that she is in this school.
But that doesn't mean there's not what to mock:
1. Homework. This cracked me up. As a teacher, we had to be super super super careful that every piece of homework the kids did was marked or graded somehow. Parents checked. Certain things we went over together as a class, but a lot of the work was handed in and thoroughly checked, usually by my super-efficient colleague, Rachel "Nope I'm Still Not a Loyal Reader" Rosenthal. Not so in first grade here. Moriah's policy?
"I check that the homework is done. That's it. Checking that it's correct? Your job, parents."
Now, you have to understand, she is one teacher alone in a class of 31 kids. So it makes sense that she can't spend half her morning collecting workbooks and putting little smiley stickers in them. But I laughed. Because I think I would be placed in the stocks if I ever said something like that at SAR.
2. "Kochav Nolad." Every week, a different kid in class is chosen as the "kochav nolad," and basically they get to talk about themselves all week and it's all very special. When I was in first grade, with Mrs. Goldberg at Beth Tfiloh, we had something similar called "The Big Knish of the Week." It was simple. All the kids wrote and drew something about the Knish, and at the end of the week, the Knish got this cute little booklet with all these nice letters and drawings. Of course, the boys in the class, with whom I had as little to do as possible, didn't have much to say. So all during the week, kids like Mark would come up to me.
"Hey. What's your favorite color."
"And what do you like to do?"
"Swim and read."
On Friday, Mark, and about a dozen other boys' paragraph would sound something like this:
"Gila is nice. Gila has blond hair. Gila's favorite color is red. Gila likes to swim and read."
So I figured Kochav Nolad would be similar. But no. First, the child and parents prepare a paragraph in writing all about the child. Then, the child and parents pick a few pictures, post them onto a large posterboard, which, of course, needs to be purchased by the parents, and then the child and parents write a few sentences about each picture. Every day, after the morning meeting, the Kochav gets to go up in front of the class and talk about one picture. At the end of the week, on Friday, the child does a twenty-minute activity with the class. That has been prepared in advance by, of course, the parents.
Oy. First grade is going to be lots of work. For me. At least I don't have to worry about color-coordinated clips.
Today Ariella had a playdate with a Hebrew speaker from class. When I picked them up from school, I asked Nitzan if her mother had told her ahead of time that she was going home with me. Now, what I thought I said sounded normal, like:
"Nitzan, did your mother tell you you are coming home with me?" I realized, though, that with my lilting American accent and broken Hebrew, it was probably akin to someone saying to Ariella:
"Areee-ella. Deeed your muzzer tells you dat she were coming hoooom weez me?"
So I forgive Nitzan for the slightly strange look she gave me.