Today was notable in that it was the first of four sessions in which I get to be a parent-teacher in my daughter's Shabbat School class. When we were first looking at synagogues, one of the big draws for our homeschooling family was the elementary religious education program which was cooperatively taught by parents. How great, we thought, parents and children learning together.
After many different classes, teaching teams, and groups of kids over the last decade, my enthusiasm is somewhat dulled. As it turns out, it's not an easy thing to manage a class of 6 year olds, only a few of whom are genuinely interested in the content presented in our carefully crafted lessons while the others are clearly there against their will and would rather poke each other, and lounge apathetically under the tables. Today reinforced my career choice of working with teens and young adults. I bow to those who work with these kids all day long. I do not have that kind of stamina. Or patience. First grade teachers must be superhuman.
It occurred to me as I worked with these kids today that there were a couple who probably would be happier not in a classroom for the sixth day in a row. And I thought back to MonkeyBoy at six. He went to Shabbat School on Saturdays and mostly seemed to enjoy it and learn quite a bit. But he wasn't at school all week long. Watching these high energy, super physical kids I realized that my son would likely have been just like them had he been trapped all week long.
It just so happened that MonkeyBoy came along today. He'd been hired to do child care during some concurrent programming for parents, but none of the folks who'd requested child care ended up bringing their kids. Since he was bumming around with nothing to do I encouraged him to join the first grade class and help out which he willingly did. He was as overwhelmed by the energy level as I was but he jumped in to assist as needed.
When we left, we started talking about the class. On his own, he suggested that maybe there were kids who just shouldn't be in a classroom until they mature a bit. It was then that I heard the words every parent longs for: I think you did everything just right, Mom. He's pretty sure that he'll be ready to start school as a freshman next fall but that it's too bad more kids can't be home until they're ready for school.
MonkeyBoy has been crabby and critical lately, especially with me, so I nearly keeled over with shock when I heard the words I didn't expect for decades.