[FRESH BROOD] It’s Not Your Father’s First Grade


My kids have always been preschool kids. I say “preschool” instead of “daycare” because it makes me feel much, much better about it! But in reality, preschool has been an amazing experience for my kids.  It started for each of them at four months old, when they entered the infant room (the Caterpillars, or Junebugs, or something) and did nothing but sleep, cry, eat, and poop. Little did I know they were also making friends for life (at least life through present day, which is a relatively short life thus far, but I certainly hope the friendships will continue).

Some of those friendships will be tested now that my son is out of the preschool, where he also attended full-day kindergarten, and has started first grade in our local public school. The problem is, we are zoned right between two public elementary schools and his preschool/kindergarten buddies have been split up. Some go to his school and some go to the other. It was a sad day when they parted ways, but fortunately all the parents are friendly, and I expect we’ll be able to keep the group together.

Readying my son for first grade has been an experience. For those of you with school-age kids, none of this may come as a surprise, but for you new dads, hold on to your abacus. It turns out, things have changed a wee bit since I was last formally edumacated (misspelling intentional for comedic effect – insert laughter here). First, there are no chalkboards and hence, no chalk or erasers. What?! No screeching chalk on the board, no erasers to bang out, no chalk dust everywhere? No. My son’s first grade classroom has a ceiling-mounted projector connected to a computer and some kind of digital writing tablet. Seriously, this is a sweeter set-up than most Fortune 500 conference rooms. Next, there are computers everywhere! And I’m not talking Commodore 64s or Apple 2s from back in the day. No, I’m talking spanking-new iMacs (which I suppose are the Apple 2s of today). My son’s classroom has six of those bad boys, the library has at least ten, and the computer lab down the hall has thirty (yes, I said computer lab, and yes, he’s in first grade).

As if that weren’t enough technological goodness… get this… they don’t even buy lunch with money anymore! Well, money still changes hands, so to speak, but it’s digital money, which I deposit into an account online and from which my son debits using a six-digit code that he somehow memorized in, like, thirty-seconds. So, no more stealing a kid’s milk money and no more forgetting your lunch money at home and having to eat saltines and drink from the water fountain (good times). Now, kids procure their entrée, load up at the salad bar (yes, that’s right, there’s a salad bar), select their milk of choice (white, chocolate, or both – they’re allowed to have one of each… WHAT?!), and sidle-up to the keypad where they enter their trusty student ID number and away they go.  The lunch attendant also logs what each kid takes for lunch, which is then available for me to review online. Do I need to know that? Do I want to know that? I suppose if all my son were eating for lunch was a plate of nachos and two chocolate milks I may have a problem with that. But then again, I feed him a healthy breakfast and dinner and pack a healthy snack, so maybe it’s okay for him to have some independence and get whatever crap he wants from the cafeteria for lunch, right? Honestly, I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to figure that one out.

All I know is, my son seems much more ready for this brave new world than I am. I’m still trying to get used to an elementary education (sorry, edumacation), with no chalk, no cash, and computers that make me jealous. But we’re now a few days in and he already has a bunch of new friends, he’s making relatively good choices in the lunch line, and he can recite his six-digit student ID number backwards and forwards (which he randomly does, like, ten times a day for some reason).  So all in all, I suppose things are going pretty well. Now if only I could remember my own employee number and find a way to score a new iMac, I’d be all set.

Image credit: Stephen Sizemore

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