ABC’s and 123’s

One week from today twenty-something little bright-eyed first graders will walk into my classroom to begin the new school year.  The start of each new year always brings about a lot of anxiety and stress for me.  I am usually scrambling to get my classroom set up, working on writing out lesson plans, and dreading the exhaustion that comes as I adjust back into work mode.  (Please hold your murmur about the easy life teachers have with the summers off.)  I have been known to stress myself out over fear of the upcoming stress.  Crazy, I know, but I am weird like that.

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Things are so very different this year.  For those of you that don’t know, I am returning to school in the fall (well, it is still summer, but you know what I mean.) without taking any additional time off.  I was originally planning on taking the first semester off, but then I changed it to the first grading period because of FMLA and insurance complications.  Then Odette came home earlier than expected, one thing led to another, and now I am going back for day 1.  It wasn’t an easy decision.  I drug my feet a bit.  I was looking forward to lazing around the house and hanging out with the munchkin.  But, I had my whole summer of lazing.  We had our whole summer together.  While it would have been nice to stay home longer, Odette needs more than I can give her.

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This kid needs interaction with others.  She needs structure.  She needs facilitated play.  She needs modeled social language.  She needs academic language.  She needs mental challenge.  “School” is going to be great for Odette.  She will thrive.  I just know it.  She does really well with others, friends and strangers alike.  My “needs” in the above sentences should really be loves.  I would be doing Odette a disservice if I didn’t put her in daycare.  I really think that.  That doesn’t make it any easier on my mommy heart to send her off and wave goodbye.

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Just like all moms, I’m sure, I think Odette is different.  Will they truly care for her as well as I would?  Will they be understanding?  Do they realize that her situation is unique?  My thoughts all stem from her adoption, but I think it is safe to say that we all think our children are special and have their own needs.

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So this year, in the midst of preparing myself for the upcoming school year, I am trying my best to prepare Odette.  We have talked about school.  We’ve looked at pictures of school online.  We have read books about school.  She is still asking daily to go even though she is understanding more and more the concept of her countdown chain.  She has her little backpack and I expect her nap blanket to come in the mail any day now.  Having been in my classroom with me she has some idea of what to expect at school.  We’ve talked over and over about singing songs, coloring, playing, friends, eating snacks and lunch, napping, reading…all that fun stuff that 3-year-old daycare rooms are full of.  She seems so excited.  I am excited for her.  That doesn’t mean I don’t have my worries.

034Will she understand that we will come back for her?  Sure, a lot of kids might have this fear, but for Odette it is at a whole other level.  She’s only been apart from both of us once.  (I wish I could say it was for a date night, but Jeff was working and I went into school to work while Uncle Nick watched Odette.)  She’s been away from me only a handful of times.

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Will they understand that she is still learning English?  Odette really understands most of what we are saying, but as all children who are learning a second (really 3rd in her case) language she speaks using much less.  She mixes in a fair amount of Lingala, especially the stuff that I have picked up on or that sounds similar enough to English.  For example she says something like whupa for where.

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Will they be patient?  I’m not saying I am the most patient person.  Gosh, I’m not.  But little one has taught me so much patience.  She deserves patience.  She is so very sweet.  Her world was rocked and the poor girl just needs your love.

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Will she catch up with her peers?  Unlike a lot of three-year olds, she doesn’t know her letters, letter sounds, colors, numbers, or even the alphabet.  Remember, I am always honest on here.  I am having a hard time with that.  I know that a biological child could have struggles as well.  I know it is terribly vain of me, but I am only being honest.  I don’t like that she is “behind” before she even begins.  I know that she can catch up.  I do.  Will her teachers give her the instruction she needs?  I am not happy with simply being told that it will take time.  I don’t want to sit back and wait.

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Will she face racism?  Fact, racism is alive and well.  Even for a three-year old.  Even in the year 2012.  Even in a city frequently named one of the best places in the US to live.  Will she be judged by other kids?  Will she be judged by the teacher?  How long will it take before another kid asks why her mommy and daddy aren’t brown like her?  How will other parents react?  How many kids will pat her on the head to touch her different looking hair?  I know it is an innocent child’s curiosity, but I just don’t think it is fair to Odette.  Maybe I could send copies of this letter with her to school.    I hope a lot of this is my overreaction, but I am not naïve enough to think that it won’t happen at some point.  We are prepared for it.  We can take it on.  Say what you want to us.  Leave her alone.

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Then you have all the usuals…will she eat the food? will she nap? will she follow directions? will she have an accident in her pants? will she bond with the teacher? will she be a good friend?  will she understand that she goes there everyday?  will she learn what they are trying to teach her?  will she like it?

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Odette goes this Friday for her open house.  Parents can stay or drop off.  We plan to stay with her for a bit and then say our goodbyes and see how she does for a few hours.  Monday starts the real deal.  Keep us in your thoughts.  Honestly, I’m betting that the first day will be much harder on me than her.

All the pictures were from today’s fun.  Maybe you can tell, but I have a case of the mommy guilts.  Guilt for the days we didn’t make the most of summer.  Guilt that our days together are coming to an end.

Sarah Signature

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4 thoughts on “ABC’s and 123’s

  1. I respect teacher’s so much! I understand the hard work they put in outside of the classroom. What grade do you teach again?

    I think Odette will do great at school! We let Zalen visit Aleigh’s classroom for “Show & Tell” last year and he threw a fit upon having to leave. He wanted to stay. School is such a big deal for them. Sadly, the privileged are the ones that get to go to school in the DRC. 😦 I think going to school holds a very different meaning to him. So I am feeling a little bit selfish that I will be keeping him with me. I went back and forth on this but I did pre-k here at home with all my other kids and I am looking forward to being able to bond with just him. Is this selfish of me? I am afraid he is going to miss the interaction so much of the other kids. It will be just me and him and my one year old niece this fall as the twins head off to Kindergarten.

    As for the language, I have had to “fight” against myself not to push it. It has been hard for me not to compare to others being home – who are doing so much better with their language. I wanted him to have 6 months of adjustment before I started a structured learning environment. I do believe this has helped our transition go smoother. Besides, I have had to work on him with so many other areas that ABC’s and colors are at the bottom of my list. But I do feel the pressure that he will behind. I was blessed today to hear him call from the bathroom “I need a towel” in really good English. It seems lately He is speaking more clearly and not putting all those extra syllables in his words. You know the one Lingala word I hear the most? Ung-guy – meaning “me, my turn, mine” He still uses it all the time. And of course Suba. (I write how they sound–LOL)

    Anyhoo, will be praying as you transition back to school and a new routine. 🙂

  2. Good luck! I know it’s different for Odette, but my oldest (bio) just started preschool and it’s the first time she’s really been in close contact with black children. The mother’s morning out she went to last year was 100% white (at least her class), our church is mostly white (her class is 100%), and all her friends are white. She knows her little sister has “black skin” (what she pointed out to us one day… until then we weren’t really sure she even noticed?), and lives in Africa. A couple days ago she told us that some of her new friends at school are from Africa like her baby sister! I explained that not all people with black skin were born in Africa…
    Anyway, all that to say- kids don’t really view race as an issue, especially at that age. Hopefully if the parents have questions, they’ll be tactful.

  3. I have been wondering about this day for you since you brought Odette home. I will be praying for and thinking of you all this week 🙂

  4. I don’t know if it will make you feel better but I go through the same thing everyone’s.single.year…. the summer days seem so long until July 4 when someone hits fast forward! And my 3kids year old know 2 letters (o and x) and neither of my kids let me teach them a thing. My five year old says I cannot teach her to read ( I taught firsties for 10a years and am in my second year teaching kindergarten…) the teachers will love her. You will just develop a different routine… lots more easy dinners and trips to the park on the way home. Who cares if laundry doesn’t get done!! It will be ok… and who knows how many other parents you will inspire to adopt!!

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