Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I mentioned earlier that Charlie is going to a new school this year. After several years of him asking to switch to the public school, we have decided to give it a try.
We didn't make the decision lightly. Mike, Charlie and I met with a family therapist to talk about the decision and the reasons behind it. We prayed. We thought about it. And ultimately, we decided that it was the right choice for Charlie.
The day came to go pick up his schedule. We were in the building for about an hour. He didn't say more than 10 words. Maybe he was having second thoughts? If he'd said, "Mom, I changed my mind," I would have had him out of there and back in a Catholic school uniform faster than you can say "Pope Benedict the sixteenth." But he didn't.
Later that night, Mike asked him how he liked it. His response was classic Charlie:
"It was awesome, Dad. There were SO MANY pretty girls there."
Still, I was nervous. He moved from a school of about 500 kids to a 7th grade of nearly the same number. He had a healthy dose of nerves, but was mostly excited about the opportunity. The first day, our neighbors and his good friends met him in the driveway to walk with him to the bus stop. He wasn't too happy that I was hanging out at the bus stop, but other mothers were, so I figured it was ok. (I haven't gone back since then.)
When he came home after the first day, he said it was great...but when I asked about lunch he said he'd eaten alone. My heart sank a little bit. He didn't seem too bothered by it, so I tried not to be.
That first week, Charlie would come home and talk about teachers whose faces I didn't know, whose names I'd only seen typed out on his class schedule. About the third day of school, I realized I didn't even know the principal's name or the names of the school office staff. That just felt wrong.
The school he came from -- where Robbie still goes -- is like home to me. We've been there since Annie was 5 years old. I know the staff and the teachers. They know me. Why did I let myself be convinced that this whole switching schools business was a good idea?
Early the next week came back-to-school night. It was the same night Mike broke his ankle, so I was flying solo. I arrived a little early to attend a new family meet & greet. The principal was there, so I at least knew his name now. I talked to three or four families of other new students and then it was time to join the masses of humanity streaming through the halls, following their own students schedules.
I walked into the first classroom and introduced myself to the teacher. Much to my happiness, she knew exactly who Charlie was and told me we have a connection. Her sister-in-law teaches at Charlie's old school and her brother is our eye doctor. The massive public school world got just a little bit smaller and more personal then.
The rest of the night brought more surprises. A science teacher who is good friends with Charlie's former art teacher. An English teacher who I just wanted to hug because of her obvious passion for teaching and love of the students. A social studies teacher who clearly knows her stuff. A math teacher who made it a point to ask about Charlie's transition. And in the hallways, faces of neighbors I know by sight, but not by name because our kids have always gone to different schools.
Back-to-school night may as well have been named "Mom Breathes Easier Night." Yes, the school is BIG. Yes, I will make a point of wearing tennis shoes whenever I have to go trek across that building. But I can say with certainty, it's a good place. And the right place for Charlie right now.