I read a blog post by my friend Carol about her third grade experience. It led to a bit of reflection on my part on how very different kids' school experiences can be -- and how that shapes their perspective on school and learning in general.
Nich and I had incredibly different school experiences. I grew up with the stability of attending the same three international schools my entire childhood: preschool, ASOY (K-8), and RFIS (9-12). I enjoyed learning; it came fairly easily to me. I loved reading from an early age, for which I can thank my parents, particularly my mom. Not only were they both avid readers, setting a good example for me, but my mom also taught me how to read long before I went to preschool. Reading well is central to a child's enjoyment of school and to their imaginative development. From first grade through fifth grade, I was a grade level ahead in reading, writing, and math. Honor roll was a norm, not something for which I strived; it just happened at the end of every quarter.
Friends came and went because I lived in an international community comprised of children of missionaries, diplomats, businessmen, and locals. However, I always felt like I had a solid group of friends around me, and to this day, I keep in touch with a few who I've known since those very early years.
I suppose I had an easy childhood in that regard. I did well in school, I had friends, and although I wasn't extremely skilled athletically other than in swimming, because of the size of my high school, I did get to play on a couple sports teams.
Nich, on the other hand, changed schools a lot, because his parents moved around east Texas often, depending on their job situations. He had to repeat a couple grades due to all the moving, the misery of which was exacerbated by the fact that he had A.D.D. (but no one knew about that back then). He talks about just being unable to stay in his seat, getting "pink slips" sent home nearly every week for talking too much in class, finishing only half a worksheet and shoving it in his desk because he lost interest (they made him sit in the principal's office one day and finish ALL of them at once when they found out). And this was just in second grade! I can't imagine a seven year old enduring that kind of misery.
He never got to play on any sports teams except for a year of baseball because his parents just couldn't afford it. Although he enjoyed school and learning, he was often bored, due to the teaching philosophy of the education system back then and his attention span.
Nich didn't have close friends until middle school, but thankfully, once he made friends, they stuck. In fact, he and Chris have been best friends since seventh grade. Chris and his wife Keri live near us here in New York, and the guys were in one another's weddings. We have celebrated Easter and Christmas with them a few times over the past few years because all of us are far from "home."
Being married to Nich and knowing what school was like for him makes me a more aware and compassionate adult when interacting with students. If I ever get my own classroom, I'm going to remember his stories, and remember that school just isn't the same for everyone.
As an end note, I'm reminded today of how thankful I am to have such thoughtful, reflective friends who write well. I have quite the list of blogs I follow, and all but two are people I actually know and respect. I'm grateful to have such beautiful minds and souls in my life. They challenge, inspire, and encourage me to live life well, with intention and joy.
"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner