Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Remember junior high? Remember counting the days 'til summer or the next week-off? Alex was having one of those disappointing 7th Grade Blues kind of days. I hear him and I agree on many points; School ought to be better than it is... I think many of us would agree. Sometimes the fear and loathing of middle school is like a rite of passage that we carry with us. Only years later can we happily connect with our peers, recalling the torment and angst of our early adolescence.

Alex has always had high expectations of the world. He once found me reading a MAD magazine. Alfred E. was gracing the cover, some rude and funny comic was on the back. Alex was about 6 or 7 at the time and he looked appalled. "Why are you reading that?" he asked incredulously. "It looks disgusting."

It sort of was disgusting, but I was on vacation and enjoying a moment of sentimental immaturity, and I explained that while he might not 'appreciate the humor, because it was in fact inappropriate, I wanted to read it. So there.'

With Alex there is no double standard. He said, "You should get rid of it."

I agreed to throw in the recycling bin, not to leave it around to offend young impressionable minds.

He offered to burn it. "You should burn it now. It's disgusting. Why do you want to read it, if it's disgusting?"

This was a growing/learning/responsible parenting moment: I had to choose between junk food for my mind and showing Alex that his convictions and beliefs are worthy of respect. I imagined him in ten years struggling with peer pressure and difficult choices, tempting, but dangerous choices, and I decided I wanted him to feel as bold and empowered to follow his clear and good convictions, as he did about that stupid magazine. Together we put MAD on the fire.


It seems school is tough for the usual reasons we all recall. Who wouldn't rather sleep a little later, and take learning on a mood basis...? "I feel like reading all morning, then riding my bike, before I build a robot."


But Alex gets down and defeated by other things, like the revolving door in the art program. They are starting with a third art teacher, and it seems the art department doesn't even have a pencil sharpener. He wants to learn about art and be challenged to learn new skills. Progress has been glacially slow. Other areas that have come up short include music, technology/computer classes and the promised but revoked Tae Kwon Do program.


He is right, there is reason to be frustrated and disappointed; I feel it too. School has been good for reasons like expanding his experiences. But in terms of the school being prepared to commence a middle school program? It falls far short of what we were promised. I have tried to look forward and be patient, but I am feeling as though the middle school program is incomplete, like an experiment and of course it comes at our expense, in several ways. The administration is unprepared and frequently changing directions, methods, curriculum, staff and even furniture. The teachers seem eager enough, but they are stymied by the administration's shortcomings and inconsistencies.

Life is a learning experience, and not always the one we think we are paying for. Writing in Chickenblog helps me sort my thoughts, and now I realize it may be time to write another letter to the school... if only to get a pencil sharpener in the "Center for Visual and Performing Arts."

And Alex, hang in there mi'jo. It could be worse.
2 days until Spring break.
72 days until Summer break.... only 46, if you don't count weekends and holidays!

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