Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ode to Elementary School

It’s almost over. After 15 years, and two different schools, I will be saying goodbye to the elementary school.

It’s been a long journey, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. When we started, back in 1996, we were a family of just four, with a newborn daughter and a lot less gray hair.

I was entering my third decade of life, and couldn’t imagine how my son would find his way off the school bus and to his kindergarten class without me. (In hindsight, I realize it would be close to impossible for him to get lost, since you could see his classroom from the bus!)

I worried about those “older” 5th graders corrupting my innocent son with their salty language. I questioned the teachers, guidance counselors and anyone else who would listen on everything from dress code to homework.

Then, just as I was growing comfortable with my surroundings, a wrench was thrown into the plans; a new school opened, and we were redistricted.

It was September 2001, and my son was now a 5th grader. He would accompany my daughter, who was entering kindergarten, on the bus and protect her from his big, bad friends, only at a totally different school.

As predicted by teachers and administrators, he was fine with the change. I wasn’t. A new school meant new teachers, new rules, new office staff, new hallways, new everything. How would I adjust?

Luckily, we were blessed with a beautiful building, an understanding principal and a great group of teachers. I became more comfortable, more relaxed. She would be fine; the school wasn’t that big; homework got done; dress code was easy. The journey continued.

Then, finally, in 2005, I sent my youngest off on that big yellow bus. The birds were singing and the stores were beckoning. Freedom was within my reach.

I was an old pro by then, with the emphasis on “old.” I remember her kindergarten Open House. It was the same night as my son’s Open House at the High School. My husband and I split responsibilities: he headed to the high school, and I took the elementary school.

It wasn’t easy. As I sat through questions like “Do they get served fruit every day?” and “ What if they can only write half of their name?”, he was listening to discussions on drinking and college prep classes.

The times were changing – or perhaps I was changing. I was becoming disillusioned with the many rules (really, they can’t touch the walls at all while walking down the hallways?) and tired of the many fundraisers (there’s only so much wrapping paper one household can use!)

It was time to move on. With one child in college and one child in high school, I feel very old when I walk the halls these days. I look at some of these parents and realize I could very well be their mother.

I have spent 15 years standing at our neighborhood bus stop, in rain, sun, sleet and snow; 15 years studying thousands of words in those Spelling Connections books; 15 years sitting in those tiny chairs listening to well-meaning teachers tell me how to raise my child. I am ready to move on – as is my daughter.

So now, in three short weeks, we will officially be leaving Elementary School. No more recorder concerts, no more winter carnivals, no more pumpkin decorating nights – it’s all over. This part of the journey is ending.

The Kopp family is leaving elementary school. We bid it a fond farewell and a hearty thank you. Thank you for the care, the love and the memories. We’re moving on. Our journey continues…

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