Monday, September 24, 2007

Same as it ever was

We're into the third week of school. Henry's seen some changes over the summer: some big, some small.

Part of the fallout of the district's budget mess is that Henry has lost some staff support positions, including the Climate Manager, who worked with kids and teachers to maintain a civil environment in the school and on the school yard. We've lost a couple of aids, who helped out on the school yard and were a pair of right hands for the Principal. To listen to my son, however, these changes are hardly noticed at the kid level.

With a new system of "socialized recess" on the school yard, my son reports that recess is more manageable than before. The system lets kids choose what kind of activity they want to do during recess, then they get a colored wrist band that identifies them for a specific area of the school yard. Kids can't freely move from one area to the next without trading wrist bands with a kid from the other area - a system to keep the kids fairly distributed and more easily supervised for safety. So unlike last year, when the grade above him dominated the basketball hoops and new play equipment, my son and his classmates get fair time in the game (even though that same, older grade is still out there with them).

My son has a male teacher for the first time, this year. He has truly enjoyed his four female teachers, from Kindergarten through third grade, but he likes the idea of someone who may "get" him a little better than someone who was never a nine year-old boy. The teacher, Mr. Jackson, is also a marathon runner, trying to qualify this year for the prestigious Boston Marathon, so my son - no snail himself - also has a dual role model in his classroom. In addition to the big running goal, Mr. Jackson is a fun teacher - at least that's the current report. We also have a student teacher from St. Joseph's University - my son has had a student teacher every semester of his school life, from Kindergarten on.

We have 21 fourth graders in our classroom. Twenty-one! With the teacher and student-teacher, that's 10.5 kids per adult. Except when some kids leave the room for Gifted Support, or band, or remedial work, when the number of kids and student:teacher ratio gets even lighter. It's not like this throughout the school - we have classrooms that are right up at the limit of 30 kids for K - 3, and 33 for grades 4 - 8. And we are starting the year with some classrooms that are over the limit (which will be corrected in early October when the district moves teachers into schools that needs to reduce class sizes).

Since Kindergarten, our son's classes have been: 17 kids in Kindergarten, low 20's in first and second grade, 30 kids (right at the limit) in third grade, and currently 21 in forth grade. We've enjoyed a relative bubble of small class sizes, even through the district's trend of larger classes and the news reports of classes in some schools with 40 and more students.

If you ask our son about school, and we have, he'll tell you everything's pretty much the same as it ever was. He plays with his friends. He does his work. His teacher is nice. He gets his work done. As parents, dealing with some of the district's big issues can seem daunting. But when we remember that our son is still doing great in school, still enjoying school, still looking forward to going to school, feels appreciated and acknowledged by the adults in and around the school...we're reminded that the experience that really matters in all this is his, and it remains a great experience.

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