Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Our Pre-K Class Is "Peanut-Friendly"

Thanks be to Zeus and George Washington Carver for that.

Tonight, Matt and I did what you should never do in a haunted house. Heh, we split up. He went to Curriculum Night for the fifth grade, which turned out to be fiendishly complicated, what with the switching of classes for different subjects and all the different teachers to find and meet, and then the having a list of 100 Latinate vocabulary words handed to him. Of which more about in a mo'.

So he did that and I went to the parents' meeting at Hank's new school. Now, Hank is not in Kindergarten yet, owing to his having just turned five and my wanting to guarantee his total shock-and-awe domination when he does finally matriculate, so he is going to a "young 5's" pre-K class at the big red church across the street from the medium white church where he went last year. The white church's school was fine, you know, nothing to really complain about except that they were a tiny bit DULL and he never loved going there. Cf, the blueberry incident. Meh. The big red church is supposed to be the bestest one, the one with the long, long waiting list for every year, conveniently, except the 5's. ('Cause most of the 4's go on to Kindergarten, I suppose.)

Anyway, it is a lovely place. Great outdoor space as well as a shiny, fancy indoor playground, a library, and a PE teacher. Really, a better facility than many, many elementary schools. Both of the 5's classes are headed by certified teachers. They have gobs of experience. I was thinking tonight, if this place were in Manhattan, it would cost 30k a year and there would be people trying to bribe their way in. And, if the program is as good as the staff kept telling us in their little presentation, it will be plenty good enough. Seriously, it was all, "Big Red Church is the premiere preschool in this area. Congratulations!" That was the pastor of the church saying that, not the director of the school. But okay folks, I am ready to be persuaded. Show me.

Then we went to our classrooms and I saw that on the class list posted by the door, they had Hank down as John. Understandable, because his name is John Henry, but I am sure than when I was filling out all the reg forms, I had "Hank" everywhere. I thought I'd better mention it to the teachers before they went crazy labeling his cubbies and folder and coat hook and everything. Hank is what he calls himself, Hank is what he can write, Hank is what he can read. Hank is, you know, his name. Hank the Tank. Hank Hank Hoobastank.

He is just such a Hank.

Also, you need to know that Matt and I regard the naming of our children as among our greatest accomplishments as parents. Sometimes we still high-five each other and say, "Nailed it." True fact.

So I introduced myself and said, "I'm John's mom, but you know, he goes by Hank. I wanted you to know before you wrote his name on everything." Well, they had already done just that--labeling it all "John Henry"--but the assistant teacher was making noises like they would just change everything. Then the head teacher said, "But what would you like him to learn to write?"

And that caught me up short. I mean, John Henry is his name, yes, and I do expect that one day he will write it and own it. So should he start learning that now? I didn't know what to say. What is the purpose of the labeled cubbie? Is it just so the child knows where to stow his bag? Or is proclaiming him back to himself? Reinforcing what he already thinks? Does a child need to be challenged by his cubbie label? Made to deal with the slight unfamiliarity, the momentary dislocation of realizing that, after all, it is oneself who that strange cubbie name refers to? I guess what I'm saying is, what is in a name?

Am I over thinking this?

Then the teacher said, "Because I do think it's good for him to learn to write his official name." And what I said was, "Well...I guess...that's right...it's just that we are nickname people..." (Nickname people? HUH? Meeting me, you would never, never think that I am smart.) So we buzzed about it a bit more and the way we left it, I think, is that they were going to put "Hank" in a few key places and he was also going to take on the mantle of John Henry. I was very clear that they need to call him Hank when talking to him or he will just not even turn around.

The version of what I just told you sounded like the following when I came home and told Matt about it: "They've got all his stuff labeled John Henry and they want him to learn that, so I don't know, I guess we will work on it." And he was like, "Okay." Reader, I concealed my inner turmoil.

Oh, and the teacher said that nobody in the class has a peanut allergy, which is good, because peanut butter is the base of Hank's food pyramid. And I think the class will be good. I hope it is not too rigid, I don't think so. I am hopeful. I hope they will engage his attention and let him play enough and generally have happy times, and that they will know he is my golden treasure. Also I met a few moms who were nice. One of them had a great Marc Jacobs Blake bag from several years back, and I thought, "Oh it is ON woman!"

You know, just a normal night of hopefulness, questions of identity, latent competitiveness, doubt, self-examination, surprising moments of connection, and yearning, like you get at literally any parents' night.

Oh lord the vocab list. Will have to tell you tomorrow.

Edited to add: Matt read this and said that in no way did I conceal my inner turmoil. Hmnph.


Anonymous said...

The instructor's earnestness about His Official Name just makes me so sad. He's 5. I wish people who deal in ECE wouldn't act like education is a train, leaving the station, and there will never, never be another. Latin/Greek is fun bc all of a sudden they know ALL THE WORDS. It's pretty cool xo

Beth said...

As someone who has a formal name and has NEVER been called by that name, I say leave the confusion til later. I mean, it's fine that they want him to know his full name, yadda yadda, but as Elle says, he's FIVE. Let him be Hank!

I don't actually think you are overthinking it-- there is that weirdness of, "wait! Elizabeth is ME"-- so I think it's totally reasonable for you to question it.

Either way, he's going to remain a golden treasure.

Veronica said...

Oh, heavens, like the others have said, I think he has plenty of time later in life to learn to own and write his official name. But, I'm sure it won't be harmful to start learning that he has an official name and a nickname.

Elizabeth said...

Before I read that Matt denied you "concealing your inner turmoil," I was going to write that that sentence was definitely my favorite, including the "Reader," -- I just love your sensibility and think, yes, you are over-thinking, but that's what you do and we love it out here. As for Hank learning to write his "true name," I mean won't that come anyway? He's going to learn to write all his letters eventually and I'm sure he'll figure it all out!

Aviva said...

That's pretty silly stuff for the teacher to be worrying about, imo. I have an "Ellianna" who goes by "Ellie" 90 percent of the time. (The other 10 percent? That's ranged from Priscilla to Rosie. All things she came up with on her own and insisted on being called. I was pretty impressed when she signed a picture she made for my bday when she was 4 and going by Priscilla. That's a hard name to spell. :)

Anyway, if he's anything like my kid, he will be firm with the teacher(s) about what his name really is. :)

Amy said...

You know, here in Sydney pretty much every school and preschool is entirely peanut free, UNTIL HIGH SCHOOL. I'll pause for a moment and let that sink in.

So, how is this different from kindergarten? Not being snarky, just asking. Is it less days/week?

You sound like me, with all the analyzing. It's like we're related--OH WAIT. Seriously though, I think Hank Hank Hoobastank will do great, and will assimilate all his names with no problem.

My Kids' Mom said...

You know, as a preschool teacher, I'd have labeled everything with just Hank, but I always put full names up somewhere in the room and used them in my classes. It was amazing how many kids didn't even know their own middle names. I taught familiarity and hopefully, spelling, of the entire name. But yes! Call them by the nickname!

Jenni said...

He is such a Hank! As long as they call him Hank, and have Hank in the key places, that will work. He knows his name is also John Henry, even though he does not answer to that right?

My boys live and die by peanut butter. I'm so glad we have a peanut friendly school.

Christian said...

I have an official name that I've never used (it's horrid), but my unofficial name is awesomely awesome to the max. My parents were firm with all teachers, and taught me to be firm too (growing up, the only time I was EVER allowed to correct a grown-up was about my name). Sure, having different names has caused complications in adulthood, especially after the post-9/11 fetishization of photo IDs. And I never learned to sign my official name--honestly, I don't have an official signature. But Hank will be able to sort through these complications in adulthood. Put your foot down, IMHO.

Hootie said...

Did I ever tell you about the time I was registered for school under THE WRONG NAME! Second grade... pretty sure it was MY OWN MOTHER who enrolled me as Robert Houston Wells. Which is not my name. That made for an interesting conversation when the teacher told us to write our full names on our Cali Achievement Tests. Talk about an identity crisis.

kathy said...

As a teacher, I learned to always ask "first" what name a child used, especially before I labeled anything and everything. We've seemed to have forgotten the most important things for our younger students: exploring, socializing, snacking, napping, having fun and just being a kid. As you remember, I have a child who did not care for his "official" name. He embraced switching to his middle name without any identity crisis along the way.

The {G} Family said...

Here in AZ it is state law that Kinder's have to learn to write their full legal first name. I had registered my son as P.J. and that's what he went by. Until he got to Mrs. L's class. One day he came home telling me that P.J. was not a real name. She had asked him what the letters stood for and then WENT INTO HIS SCHOOL PAPERWORK and changed EVERYTHING! From that day forward we have had to correct every teacher every year. When I purposely registered him as P.J. to avoid all that. I'm thinking that she thought he was getting off easy only having to write 2 letters...

AlGalMom said...

I had a similar experience with my new kindergartener. She drew a picture for her teacher and wrote her name "Pippin" on it, and the teacher said to me "She will have to learn to write her full name, you know." (It is Peregrine. The only way I got her to write the whole thing for me last night was to simultaneously bribe her with cheese and make her feel like a badass for having the longest name in our family.) I often find it difficult to choose my battles when advocating for my kids in the school system, and find myself agonizing later about whether I should have challenged the teacher about it.

Hootie said...

@Kathy: I remember that name change. I was impressed by the matter-of-factness of the decision. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that event "shifted my paradigm" regarding what is possible by just making a decision and going with it. So, I learned more than cursive from you :)

Rebekah said...

You totally nailed definition of parent night meeting in this post! I find myself going back and forth between classrooms all the time since the girls are in the same grade, but have different teachers. Fun with twins!

Shannon said...

You're not overthinking it; you're looking out for your child and preparing his environment for him so he has a good experience to begin his school career. Tough cookies for what the teacher thinks; I'd say there's plenty of time for him to learn all of his names in his school career. :)