While the rest of us were getting ready for the new school year, it occurred to my daughter, Dimples, that Wonderbutt might do better in his lessons with improved vision. He hasn’t asked for a locker chandelier, yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.
My daughter will be going to middle school (6th-8th grades) for the first time next year. In our area, there are several options for middle schools. We could sell our kidneys, and send her to one of the private schools, or send her to one of three middle schools which are free. One of them is our “home” school, and the other two are magnet schools to which she would need to apply.
I’ve broached the topic of the magnet schools with Dimples several times. Her response has always been that she wants to go to the same school as her friends. When I point out that the magnet schools specialize in topics that interest her, and that she is always complaining that school is boring, she re-asserts the vital necessity of attending the same school as her friends. When I told her the heart-breaking story about a boy who begged his mother to send him to one of the private schools where he could have a more challenging curriculum, promising to give up Christmas gifts until he was 18… guess what? Yeah, blah blah blah friends.
I worried that maybe I had somehow instilled in Dimples too deep a value of friendship, that by my own comments over the years I had given it a higher priority than things like academic achievement – or doing what your mother says is good for you.
The other day, the magnet schools presented to Dimples’ 5th grade class. Later in the day, I talked to one of the 5th grade teachers, and confided Dimples’ deep desire to remain with her friends.
“Oh, you know what the magnet school guy said to the kids about that?” she said. “Ask your parents how many of their middle school friends they actually still keep in touch with.”
“Oh, that’s great!” I said. I don’t even keep up with my high school friends, so I could use that ploy again in 3 more years!
That afternoon, I prepared myself for the magnet school conversation, armed with Mr. Presenter’s clever rejoinder. I asked Dimples if she had enjoyed the presentation.
“Oh, it was great!” she said. “But I could never go there.”
“Why?” I innocently prodded, ready for my cue.
“Because they wear uniforms, Mom, and they are so not fashionable. They have to wear khaki pants with yellow shirts! Yellow and khaki, can you believe it?”
And, for that I had no answer. Because I certainly can’t torture my daughter by forcing her to wear unfashionable clothes.
At least now I know that she has her priorities straight.
I think we can all agree that the ant posts need to stop. But I feel that I must follow through on the story. Following through was one of my New Year’s resolutions this year. Okay, I admit that is my resolution every year. And you can probably conclude how well I’ve followed through with that.
Anyway, while a bunch of you are wrestling with a Monster Storm in the northeast, including my NJ relatives (shout out! well, shout out when you get a chance to read this, which probably won’t be for another week or so, and you probably won’t really be putting my blog high on your priorities once you get electricity back, but just in case, I want you to know I’m thinking about you), I have been wrestling with a herd of harvester ants. I know it’s not exactly the same. In fact, it’s a pretty lame comparison.
A better comparison would be the figurative wrestling I got to do with my 2nd graders today during The Transfer. One advantage of teaching Gifted and Talented students is that they are pretty confident most of the time that they know more than you do. And they are pretty right most of the time. Usually, I am better about hiding that, but they obviously sensed my feelings of inadequacy as I described the way everything was going to go down this morning.
“We are going to prepare the ant farm, and then I will punch a hole in the side of the bottle and connect it to the ant farm, so the little guys can just naturally make their way to their new home.”
“Why don’t you just put them in?” “How are they going to know they can go in there?” “Do you know what you’re doing?”
They clustered around the table as I followed the directions for prepping the ant farm. The one boy who has the least confidence in my ability to do anything insisted on reading the instructions along with me to make sure I did it right.
Then it was time to stab a hole in the Vitamin Zero bottle. This is one of the steps I hadn’t completely thought through – having only a blunt pair of scissors with which to perform this delicate operation. I closed my eyes as I jabbed the scissors, picturing an accidentally monstrous puncture and zillions of harvester ants crawling on top and over each other to escape.
To my surprise, I was successful in creating the minute hole that was my goal, and I quickly inserted a plastic tube that had come with the ant farm into the tiny aperture.
“It’s too high! The ants can’t get in that!”
“It’s too slippery! They’ll never get over to the ant farm.”
“You should put it lower.”
“Let me do it.”
Of course, they were right. It was too high, and the tube was sloped ridiculously. The few ants that acrobatically flung themselves into the tube were only able to crawl up about two inches before unceremoniously sliding back down.
I told the students that they needed to be patient, and to let the ants problem-solve.
About 10 minutes later, I snapped 2/3 of the tube off, and lowered the hole – quickly duct taping Hole #1 in case of deserters.
The students grumblingly accepted this compromise, still not satisfied with the slow progress of the ants. But they were gratified to see that a few of the ants were able to cross the tube to the new homestead.
By the time the kids returned to their homerooms, some of the more adventurous ants had obviously communicated that the coast was clear to their pals, and an assembly line had begun with the apparent objective of carrying the entirety of their 2-day-old home over to the new one. I promised the students I would take pictures every day of the ants’ progress, until 2nd grade returns next Monday. Boy Who Doubts Me tried to convince me that I should e-mail the pics each night to him; I’m surprised he did not demand that I set up a live webcam so that he can assure himself that I don’t destroy the whole habitat with my ineptitude during the next 7 days.
For Blogging Purposes, the entire event was somewhat anti-climactic. But that’s okay with me. And, if you ever need to grab the attention of a group of 8-year-olds for an extended period of time, I can promise you that an ant farm will do the trick. In between their critiques of my less-than-satisfactory approach to ant herding, the students observed a lot about the ants, themselves, that elicited fascinated exclamations.
Our bulldog, Wonderbutt, thinks that his exclusion from the public school that Dimples and I both attend (well, she attends and I teach there) is speciesism, and he would like to protest his prohibition from the property. Since he cannot hold a sign, he decided to parade around with Dimples’ underwear instead.
I informed him that he is the lucky recipient of home schooling, which is what Dimples has been begging for ever since she learned that it existed. But Wonderbutt does not seem to think this is adequate. Once Dimples began to sharpen her pencils in preparation for the new year, Wonderbutt immediately felt deprived.
Every morning, when we carefully enclose him in the Kitchen Corral, Wonderbutt gives us his most mournful look of abandonment, despite the piles of toys and beds that are showered all over the kitchen floor.
Surprisingly, he has not engaged in any interior decorating during our absences this week – which is almost disappointing. In the evenings, however, he has managed to chew two rolls of duct tape and to make his stuffed raccoon toy into a quadruple amputee. It seems that, if we are going to continue to neglect him for 8 hours a day, that he absolutely insists on unwavering attention once we return in the afternoon. This makes it a bit difficult to cook and clean – and blog – but he has made it very clear that these are not his problems.
If you take a peek at my widget on the left margin, you will see that our new furniture has made it over 3 months without receiving the mark of Wonderbutt. 3 Summertime months. 3 months of the World Revolving Around Wonderbutt. This may change very soon…