I have learned today that there is nothing like your first-born starting school to make you feel old. I am not that old, but I feel like I am ready for my false teeth having spent the morning playing in M’s new reception classroom.
When we arrived, there are a few minutes of hand-holding and hiding behind me before, true to form, my little computer-addict gravitates towards the smart board. I tell him I think it is just like a TV and shows what is on the laptop, but he soon figures out how to play a “colour-by-numbers” game using what can only be described as a magical chalk board rubber which seems to work as a computer mouse.
I am not that old. I am thirty-one. I even vaguely remember my reception class. I have a vague memory of being instructed to write what I did at the weekend and to make up whatever letters I wanted if I didn’t know how to write. I wrote something like: xfoogrh because that’s what the other kids were doing (much to the ire of my mother because I already knew how to write).
At M’s new school, the outside area (not the playground, a separate outdoor section of the classroom) includes: a sandpit, a giant Connect 4, water play, a tool shed, a bug hotel, a tent/camping area, musical instruments, an obstacle course, space hoppers, and a bunch of other cool stuff surrounded by a bright primary-coloured fence.
In my infant playground we had: two parallel concrete benches, three large concrete bollards, a little patch of fence in the corner that was bereft of vegetation that we used to pretend was a dungeon. There may have been occasional sand and water play as well but I don’t remember.
Am I jealous of my son’s Reception classroom? Yes I am. Do I wish I could go back in time to four years old and go and play in that classroom instead of going back to work at the end of my maternity leave? A little bit.
Back inside the classroom, there are all sorts of toys and activities laid out. I wonder if the teachers are watching to see the personalities of each child. As well as the smart board, M also likes the writing area with wipe-clean perspex placed over letter and shape cards. He then has me sit on the little settee and read him books. Then he needs the loo and on the way out of the room he notices the reading scheme books in baskets by the door. I sit on the sofa as he goes back and forth getting books to read to me. The teacher comes to sit by us to listen and M turns bright red and hides behind me. The teacher is impressed with his reading. She asks if he is good with numbers. I say he can count to 100 and can do basic adding. She asks if he could do subtraction – I say I don’t think so.
On the walk home, I ask M if he knows about taking away. He says yes he knows that. I test him by asking some simple subtraction sums. He gets them all right. I ask how he knows this (I genuinely didn’t think he could do it). He says he is just guessing. I say he can’t be guessing as he got them all right. I ask how he is doing it. He says he doesn’t even need to use his fingers as he thinks in his head about what the fingers are doing. I am impressed and explain that I do the same thing but I imagine the numbers on the number line.
We pass an antiques shop and I explain that it is an antique shop – you know, I say, really old things. My little smart-alec replies: “Mum, I know what antiques are!”
I change the subject:
“I didn’t know they had a smart-board!” I say excitedly, trying to get M excited about school.
“Me neither!” He replies excitedly.
“I didn’t know they had an obstacle course and space hoppers!”
“Me neither! I thought it would be poo.”
“You thought it would be poo?”
“And it wasn’t?”
“Well that’s good then.”
Definitely not poo. I am jealous. I do worry what they will teach him that he doesn’t know already, though judging from the way he was guarding the smart-board eraser and fending off the other children’s attempts to have a turn, he still has a bit to learn about sharing!
He will also hopefully learn to like and trust his teacher. My “don’t talk to strangers” lesson has sunk in a bit too well and has led to M scowling at anyone who speaks to me or to him and in recent weeks to his answering in short, curt and rather rude tones to the friendly questioning of the air stewardesses, the hairdresser, and now his teacher! I explain that the teacher and teaching assistant will help him and look after him and that he can talk to them like he talks to me.
I am very proud of my little boy today and excited for the future (and yes, the four-year-old me is retrospectively jealous of all the cool toys!)
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