Mrs. Greene and Mrs. Wright make a great second-grade team. Evien is learning, growing and maturing in their classroom.
Mrs. Borchers and Mrs. Flagler are a wonderful kindergarten combination. They provide a warm, enthusiastic environment for Maggie to succeed.
OK, that’s enough. You guys can stop it now.
Everyday when I pick Evien and Maggie up from school, they toss their backpacks onto the floor of my Pontiac, climb into their seats, click their seatbelts and proceed to let out all the gas they’ve been saving up throughout the day.
After I open a window, they always ask the same thing: “Daddy, will you play school with us when we get home?”
“Play school? You were just in school all day,” I say. “Don’t you want to play something else?”
“No, we want to play school. Will you play with us?”
“I’ll have to think about it,” I say.
My eyes begin to burn from the butt symphony taking place in the back seat. Why do they save that up for me? Can’t they just do that at recess and then run away from the smell?
I crack the window again.
“Well?” Evien asks.
“OK, OK. If you stop stinking it up back there, I’ll play school with you.”
Mrs. Greene, Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Borchers and Mrs. Flagler are making school too much fun for Evien and Maggie. When I was in elementary school, it wasn’t fun at all. I couldn’t wait for that final school bell to ring so I could go home and watch “Gilligan’s Island.”
I remember sitting at my desk in Mrs. Harrington’s third-grade class, watching the clock slowly tick its way to 3:30. I hated school. I hated the brick building and the chain-link fence around it. I hated the warden, the guards, the crappy food and the short intervals of time they let us out into the yard each day. I hated the workload and most of the other inmates, and I especially hated solitary confinement where I spent a lot of time.
Now, every evening, I sit in a tiny chair at the coffee table and do arithmetic worksheets that Evien has prepared by herself.
“Don’t forget to put your name at the top of the page,” Evien says.
“Do I write my name Daddy or Grant?” I ask.
“That is a very good question,” Evien says. “You are Grant.”
My worksheet reads: “Dad got mad three times. Then he got mad four more times. How many times did he get mad?”
“Hey!” I say. “You’re talking about me.”
“No. You’re Grant, remember?”
Maggie is sitting next to me with a similar worksheet, but she can’t read it. I start reading it to her.
“No talking,” Evien says.
“But I’m ...”
“Raise your hand if you have a question.”
I raise my hand. “Evien, can I ...”
“I am Mrs. Goodin.”
Mrs. Goodin is Evien’s teacher from first grade. She also made school way too fun for Evien.
I raise my hand again. “Mrs. Goodin, can I ...”
“Please wait to be called on,” says Evien as Mrs. Goodin.
I start watching the clock like I did back in Mrs. Harrington’s class.
Evien finally points at me and says, “Yes?”
“I-I-I forgot what I was going to ask.”
Evien and Maggie have transformed our living room into a classroom. We have desks and chairs; an art station equipped with markers, chalk, crayons, paints and an easel. On an end table, books are placed upright to form a library. We have a cardboard-box aquarium with toy hamsters as pets. We also have a Tupperware bowl filled with plastic fish, turtles, frogs and lizards.
In one corner of our home, we have a place for circle time. Circle time is a place with a chair set where the teacher can read to the kids who are sitting in a semi-circle.
Evien claps her hands and says, “All eyes on me.”
Maggie and I peek over in her direction like docile puppies.
“It’s circle time,” Evien says.
Maggie and I sit on the floor at Evien’s feet while she reads a book. The two of us don’t form a very good semi-circle, and the back of my thighs cramp up and I nearly slip a disk when I try sitting criss-cross-applesauce. About that time, my wife Amy comes home from work. She’s a teacher.
“Mom, mom,” the girls shout. “Come and play school with us.”
“Play school?” she says. “I was just in school all day.”
“You can be the teacher,” Evien says.
I untangle my pretzel legs and slowly straighten up my back. “It’s recess time for me,” I announce.
So, please, Mrs. Greene, Mrs. Wright, Mrs. Borchers and Mrs. Flagler — stop making school so interesting and enjoyable for my children. Try harder to make school dull and boring so the days drag slowly by for my children and they don’t want to play school every night. My legs and back need a break.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune Community Columnist