Last night, as I smushed my butt into the kindergarten-sized chair and settled in for curriculum night, I felt all the pride and emotion and anxiety and excitement as the first day. Looking around at Thalia’s work I could tell she was inspired. And it’s not surprising. Her teacher is exuberant and committed. The parents looked friendly. The teacher described science and reading and snacks and art and rules. I was delighted to be part of the New York City public school system.
And then came the stars.
A quick mention of the “star chart,” more a behavior modification tool than a rewards chart, to help give kids a nudge in the right direction towards extra-good behaviors or away from the shedding of bad ones. It seemed fair. It seemed…like not a big deal at all. After a week in school every kid had a star or two. The end.
Or, not the end?
One hand is slowly raised in the back – a concern about the star chart. But what if our kid feels bad because he didn’t get a star? Then, more questions. Are our kids participating for the right reasons if it’s all about the stars? And are the stars fair? And are the stars good? Are the stars a path to low- self-esteem? Are the stars a public school thing because really, we’re Waldorf parents and I’m still coping with the fact that we’re here [deep breath]? Will stars be the ultimate destruction of our children, in a fight for their eternal souls along with processed foods and those light-up sneakers?
Lines were drawn! The pro-stars versus the no-stars!
I was hoping for blood.
I put $20 down on the mom in the glasses and the purple suede Merrills. She looked like a prize fighter in another life.
Um, wow – this is the most discussion we’ve ever had about the stars in 15 years, the teacher said.
And I started to feel bad. Because my superhero power is empathy. And it was starting to get awkward in there.
“If it weren’t for star stickers, my kids would still be in diapers,” I said with a smile. “So, I’m all for them!”
Heads turned. Three people laughed. Maybe two. The rest glared at me like, who the fuck are you, lady, and shut the fuck up. We’re trying to have a VERY IMPORTANT STAR FIGHT HERE.
I always make a good first impression.