High Anxiety! 1st Day of School – 2009

With tears welling up in my eyes I exited the school and hid my face with the camera taking shots of the crowds and scenery surrounding Yavne elementary school. My son was not happy about starting at yet another school and I couldn’t blame him… At 8-1/2 years old he has attended 1 preschool in Nashville, Tennessee; 2 preschool/elementary schools in Cleveland, Ohio; 2 elementary schools + ulpan in Ma’ale Adumim, Israel; and now another new school in Ra’anana!

After a restless night of stomach ache and dizziness complaints, he surprisingly emerged from his room in a good mood and even made his bed and put his dirty laundry in the hamper without my nagging! I offered bagels or cereal for breakfast and he made an excellent choice all on his own – plain yogurt with granola. When Jessica phoned from Tennessee just as we were ready to walk out the door, he actually rushed me to get off the phone so he wouldn’t be late for his first day. With backpack loaded and recyclables in a bag he rushed me to the elevator. I was amazed at the change in his attitude from last night and ever so proud of my little soldier.

I offered him the choice of taking the shortcut to school or going the main route that would be easier for him to remember if he ever has to walk home alone. He dropped the plastic bottles in the recycle bin and opted for the shortcut because he wanted to get there early.

His upbeat mood began to falter as we approached the crosswalk where a police officer sat on a motorbike opposite a bearded security guard. It was one of those mixed-feelings moments; angered that our schools need such security, but thankful that at least we live in a country that recognizes the risks and takes positive action to prevent tragedy.

We arrived to a high-energy crowd of children and parents pushing through the halls… children hugging old friends they hadn’t seen for a while, parents chatting, and teachers pushing through with armfuls of papers, as the walls seemed to expand to fit everyone.

Because parent communication doesn’t seem to be a priority in the Israeli school system, we hadn’t been informed of which classroom or teacher he had been assigned to so we had to go to the office first. I had requested on several occasions (to the vice principal and the guidance counselor) that he be placed in Morah K’s class because I had heard many good things about her. They placed him in Morah G’s class. We were told to go to the end of the hall, turn right and that Kitah Gimmel 1 would be the last classroom on the right. It turned out to be the first classroom on the right on the second floor.

The closer we got to the classroom, the more anxious he became asking me questions like “is she the Morah we asked for?”, and “do you think she’ll be nice?” I, of course, responded in the affirmative to these questions. I was relieved when we walked in the door and he was met with an enthusiastic “Hi Yisrael!” It turned out to be the son of a man we met during our first Shabbat lunch in Ra’anana and thankfully he recognized Yisrael from shul (thank you, God)!

He already had another boy sitting at the table next to him, so I encouraged Yisrael to take the seat behind him so at least someone he had met before was near him. He went to the desk, dropped his backpack on the floor, turned the chair over and sat down with a bad attitude. I told him I hoped he would have a really great first day and gave him a kiss on the forehead. He growled. I asked what was bothering him and he said something about it not being possible to have a good day in school, especially in Israel! That was it, my panic button was pushed as I looked at his angry expression. What to do?!

I fought my natural instinct to say “okay, let’s just get out of here. You don’t really need to go to school, I’ll homeschool you like I did with Jessica”. But logically I knew that we needed to at least give this a try – I need to finish ulpan, he needs the social interaction and a chance to develop friendships, and homeschooling is still an option if all else fails – after all this is just the first day of school! Maybe a diversion would work? So I attempted to get him to smile for the camera…

NOT Happy… The best “smile” he
could muster up
Hopefully he was thinking it might be a good day if his mother would leave and stop embarrassing him

The room filled up with children and parents taking pictures (knowing I wasn’t the only nut helped to ease my anxiety a bit :D). About 5 minutes after the bell rang Morah G walked in and the class quieted and stood for her (a good sign). Noticing an unfamiliar face, she asked if we were olim chadashim and I acknowledged. She then assured me that she’d be speaking with me soon and would take good care of him (at least that’s what I wanted to hear and thought that’s what those Hebrew words she spoke meant). She seems like a pleasant teacher and reminded me a bit of Yaffa, his Hebrew tutor at Sde Chemed. Hopefully he’ll like her and everything will be okay (please, God).

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