Tag Archives: walking home from school

Not the Same School

30 Jul

As the school year came to a close in June, Aidan said goodbye to her elementary school. The plan was to move from Lewisville to Richardson a month before she begins first grade.  I felt sentimental during the last time I walked her home after school. We made that same walk so many times, often snacking or sharing a cool drink on the way. Aidan said we could come back from Richardson sometime and do that walk again. I smiled, quietly knowing that her idea would never actually happen.

A few variables prevented that move to Richardson from happening, but we got some surprise news this week that still means Aidan will not be going back to the same school. Oh, she’s going back to the same school building. It retains the same name. Yet something else has changed.

The latest public school accountability ratings in Texas means my daughter’s school has been downgraded from Exemplary to Recognized. It’s a change shared by many schools around the DFW area and around the state. The story was covered by numerous media outlets, including my ex-wife’s radio station, KRLD, a CBS property.

A year ago, the designation of Exemplary or Recognized didn’t matter to me. I wanted her in a good school but I wasn’t aware of the differences. After investing months in her education—and countless hours helping her develop reading and math skills—the change is significant. Even before this news, I was already responding to the normal summertime loss of skills developed in the classroom.

Now that I have this news, helping Aidan do homework in the coming year becomes even more important to me. She’s a bright girl and I want to inspire her to challenge herself more inside and outside the classroom. I also want to facilitate her exploration of new subjects and activities. This may be the year she begins to learn to play the piano. We may also consider signing up for a sport, such as soccer.

I have a feeling we’ll be watching less TV in the coming year and spending more time engaged in educational activities and outdoor recreation. I’m even thinking of setting up an agreement where she has to earn her hours of TV. I think the new brand of structure will be a valuable part of her experience as a first grader.

She doesn’t know anything about the ratings changes. She doesn’t even have an understanding of how different first grade will be yet. She does know that new experiences are coming her way. As August begins, new clothes and new school supplies will accompany the start of a new school year. While she’s enjoying the excitement of all that newness, I will be reminding myself that her school’s new ratings will challenge me to step up my commitment to her education.

Sure, I’ll pause to take plenty of pics of her first day of First Grade, then it’s all business from that point on. That reminds me, I also will need something new before the school year begins: a new wallet filled with cash. I wonder if I can find one at Marshall’s.

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What I Learned In Kindergarten

26 Apr

In the middle of the night I am remembering my daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. I wrote a note to her to mark the occasion and I read it to her before her mom and I drove her to school.

“Today marks the beginning of a new adventure for you. May you see the best of today and recognize all the opportunities that come your way. May your eagerness to learn be a trait that grows stronger from this day forward. May your respect for others and friendly nature help you develop good friendships and relationships with your classmates and your teacher.”

Clearly the focus was on preparing her for a year of learning and adventures: new teacher, new friends, new rules. Little did I realize how much I would learn in Kindergarten this time around. Also, consider the additional difficulty of  being the non-custodial parent who doesn’t have a set routine five days a week because my daughter lives with her mom, and you can understand how a school year already packed with challenges became even more challenging for me. With that in mind, here are the Big 8 lessons I’ve absorbed in the last 8 months.

8. Packing lunch at night saves time. On evenings I am with my daughter at the apartment she shares with her mom, I like to prepare her lunches. The results are more effective at 1o pm than they are if I go over at 6:30 am. I spend far less time searching the refrigerator for missing food and looking through cupboards for plastic containers. Plus, she notices if I forget to include a spoon for her yogurt. She’s forgiving, but she doesn’t hesitate to point out my mistake.

7. Signing any necessary paperwork right away means it’s less likely to get lost and forgotten. That includes report cards, tardy slips, permission slips and fundraiser forms. Speaking of paperwork, we’re overdue to either order or return her school pictures. I suspect we’ll be ordering everything sent home. Who doesn’t love kid pictures on magnets?  

6. Offering an incentive for a week of perfect behavior may be futile. Managing to go 5 days without a single mark must feel to a kid like buying a scratch off lottery ticket does to an adult. Even the best intentions don’t lead to the best results. It’s better to offer incentives one day at a time. Last week, I rewarded a day of good behavior at school by buying her ice cream at the park. But, earlier this year, my daughter managed to get earrings thanks to a sweet deal with her mom who rewarded her for a combination of a week of fairly good behavior at school and bravery at Tae Kwon Do class.

5. Being as patient as possible when she’s learning to read pays off forever. She’ll be stubborn at times and refuse to read, even though she absolutely loves books. It’s better to maintain a sense of humor (albeit a strained one) when she’s being difficult about using the reading skills she’s learned. Otherwise, I risk creating a negative association with reading altogether.

4. Walking her home on my shoulders is a great workout. This is especially true when it’s hot and humid. My legs feel like solid as a rock, and I’ve lost 25 pounds since she started school. If I walked her to and from school every day, I could be down to 160 pounds by June.

3. Filling out the form for the school’s required background check is a sensible thing to do in September. I waited several months to do it, and waiting a bit longer could have affected my ability to accompany my daughter—and every Kindergarten student—to the Fort Worth Zoo this week.  I imagine she will persuade me to get ice cream for her and her little friends, and I will be unable to say no. Sure, I want our little group to have more fun than any other group.

2. Remembering that the only job title I possess at her school is “Aidan’s Dad” is helpful. Nobody needs to know what I do for a living. She’s my priority and my only focus when I am taking her to school and picking her up. My daily activities of looking for acting and writing gigs become irrelevant in those moments, and how my daughter is doing is the most important thing I can discuss with anyone I encounter. 

1. Sleeping as much as I can whenever sleep is available is always a brilliant move. My girl may need some extra help on the mornings I’m helping to get her ready for school. She may wake up in the middle of the night due to growing pains at times she’s staying with me. She may fall asleep in the early evening on the way home from an activity only to wake up at 11 pm and not want to go back to sleep. She may have endless energy at 6 pm and want me to run all over the playground with her. Saying “Daddy is tired” doesn’t sound reasonable to my 5 year old. I need my energy to match hers as often as possible.

Okay, so I’m dropping the ball on #1 by staying up ridiculously late to write. But I’ve already promised to walk her to school in the morning so #4 is in play. That’s even better because it means we won’t have to deal with the lack of etiquette in the carpool lane.