October 7, 2008

Back to School

Every year I go back to school dreading that first semester. I heave a sigh and sadly shake my head wishing I didn't have to do it. But I quietly remind myself -- this is for my kids.
When school first started it was really quite easy. In fact, the first couple of years I didn't even have to open up a book. Not once. And it wasn't until about the fourth year that I realized that it was probably time I started taking things more seriously, because education is a big deal.
As I said, those first years were the easiest, and everything was familiar. Except for English. I've always had a terrible time with English. Words like: to and too, or then and than, I just don't get them. And no matter how many times I use them writing or how many times my wife explains them to me, I have a hard time retaining that information. Especially when I'm told one of them is a preposition or one of them is an adverb. Like that's going to help. That kind of language will spin my head. Sometimes I just feel stupid.
As in previous years it always starts out the same old way. "I can't do this!" One of the girls will scream. Exasperation, anger and irritation all team up for battle and it always happens in the same place -- right in the middle of our living room floor. The girls will toss down their homework in front of us, whining voices accompanied by tears. "I'm just stupid!" one of them will say. Now that sounds familiar -- I am thinking to myself.
After settling them down and looking over their homework and deciding that I don't know any more than they do, that's when it happens, that's when I crack my first book. That's when I go back to school for 5 or 10 minutes out of the year and I take my first crash course study. Sitting next to me on my coffee table is my 'Hail Mary,' my 'Saving Grace'. It sits there all year long. And whenever I need to refresh my memory about anything I reach for it. It is my teacher's guide to How-to-Teach-Your-Sixth-Grader book that helps teach your student everything they need to know. I quickly thumb through the Table of Contents and search for that particular subject that has brought so much chaos into our house and presto! I am suddenly a know-it-all magician.Now I'm no teacher, but I'll play one at home. I will tackle denominators and numerators, isosceles or parallelograms and synonyms or antonyms. But when you throw words at me like adjectives, possessive pronouns and conjunctions; I will get utterly lost. And if I can't find help in my magic book, I will say: Go see your Mother.
I update this book every other year just to keep ahead of the oldest child by one grade and still have it be useful for the next child the following year. Next year I'm going to need the How-To-Teach-Your-Eighth-Grader book -- if there is such a thing -- and I really hope there is one because re-learning all this stuff is proving to be a little harder every year. I'm thinking I should probably just buy me a copy of Teaching for Dummies and a white board.

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