Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No Child Left Behind Means No Childhood

At 7:30 in the morning, Bobby’s father walked into Bobby’s bedroom and opened the shades. The noise and the light woke Bobby.
“Time to get up,” said Bobby’s father.
Bobby could barely open his eyes. He fell asleep sometime after 11:00 the night before because of the math problem that had plagued him all evening.
“Wash up and get dressed. Breakfast is downstairs,” said Bobby’s father as he walked out of Bobby’s bedroom.
Bobby lives in a middle-class suburban community outside of New York City. Bobby just started sixth grade. Middle school. He is twelve.
Bobby dragged himself to the bathroom. He looked in the mirror. “Yuck,” Bobby said as he saw a huge pimple on his cheek. Bobby washed his face and did whatever he could to rid himself of the offending blemish. He could smell his own body odor, so he took off all his pajamas and quickly hopped into the tub and turned on the shower. He washed, brushed his teeth and dressed in his bedroom. He made it to the kitchen table at 7:58 AM, where French toast and a glass of milk was waiting for him.
Bobby’s father was on the laptop computer which sat at one end of the kitchen counter.
“You finish your homework?” asked Bobby’s father as he tapped on the laptop keyboard.
“Yeah, sort of,” said Bobby.
“You either did or didn’t. Which is it?” said Bobby’s father.
“I couldn’t figure out that math problem,” said Bobby.
“Hey, it’s 8:10. We got to go,” said Bobby’s father as he shut down the laptop and grabbed his car keys. “I’ll warm up the car.”
Bobby’s father walked out the back door of the kitchen to the steel grey Chevy Tahoe SUV.
Bobby couldn’t finish the french toast. It was cold and soggy and the milk didn’t taste good either. He looked around for his book bag and realized that the bag and his zippered cloth binder were both upstairs. He ran upstairs, grabbed the bag and binder and raced downstairs, knowing that his father often was aggravated to wait.
Bobby ran outside and felt the eighty degree heat of early October. It felt like summer. Bobby ran to the Chevy Tahoe and hopped into the passenger seat.
“Buckle up,” said Bobby’s father as he pulled out of the driveway, before Bobby was able to clip the buckle.
Bobby noticed that the time on the dashboard clock read 8:18. “That clock is fast, right?” asked Bobby.
“By a minute, maybe,” said Bobby’s father, who was driving faster than the town’s 25 mile speed limit. Bobby was knocked around the seat as his father turned corners and stepped on the accelerator to get Bobby to school on time, which was supposed to be 8:20 in the morning. The Chevy pulled to a fast stop behind a line of cars.
“Better get out here and run. Love you,” said Bobby’s father. “Love you too,” said Bobby as he opened the car door, slammed it shut and ran into the middle school building. Bobby did not have time to stop at his locker, so he dashed into Room 415, his homeroom, at 8:26.
“You’re late. Go get a pass from the school office,” said Miss Lowery, Bobby’s home room teacher. Bobby ran downstairs to the office. There was a small grouping of teachers in the office and Bobby was waving his hand. “I need a late pass,” said Bobby.
One of the school administrators, Miss Joseph, said “You are too late for a late pass. What is your name?”
“Bobby MacKay,” said Bobby.
“I will make a note that you are late for even a late pass. Now run to your first class. Homeroom is over,” said Miss Joseph.
Bobby turned and ran out the office door into the corridor which was already thinning from the student rush to the first class.
“Hey, no running in the halls,” said a teacher to Bobby. Bobby slowed down, but he had to make it to Room 345 before the start of class at 8:30. The music teacher locked the door at 8:31. She told the music class she added the minute because she was “kind.”
By the time Bobby made it to Room 345, the door was closing, and the music teacher nearly shut the door on Bobby’s arm as he pushed his way in.
“Young man, you think that appropriate behavior to push the door open like that? Take your seat,” said the music teacher to Bobby. Bobby took seat number 23. There were 30 seats in the classroom, each with a number, and his music class seat number was 23. Bobby had to write these all down during the first week of school because each class assigned a different seat number and the students were expected to remember their seat assignment.
So the music teacher talked about musical instruments to a class of 27 students. Bobby seat was in the back of the classroom, immediately behind him were cleaning supplies and a three-foot pile of Discover magazines. To the right and left were two boys, neither of whom Bobby knew the names of, though he had a vague memory that the dark hair one to his right was Nick.
Bobby tried very hard to listen to the music teacher describe each instrument, which she did partially from reading directly from her notes written on paper attached to a pink clipboard. The bell rang at 9:15. Everyone lifted their butts at once.
“park your butts back down,” yelped the music teacher in a piccolo voice. “You leave when I tell you to leave. I want everyone to write an essay of what I spoke of today, detailing the seven different instruments I described, and then making a case for why you wish to play one of them. Make a decision which one. Now you can go,” said the music teacher, waving her hand dismissively.
Bobby rose and looked at the clock. It read 9:16. Spanish started at 9:18. Bobby realized that he had his Spanish notebook in his locker. He ran out of Room 345, down the hall, made a right turn and found his locker. He turned the wheel of the combination lock, back and forth several times before the combination stuck and the locker handle rose and the door opened.
The Spanish notebook was yellow. Yellow. Where is it, Bobby thought to himself. There. He grabbed it, slammed his locker shut, turned the wheel of the combination lock and ran down the hallway.
“Stop running, young man,” said Mr. Whoever. Bobby slowed and arrived at Room 217 at 9:20, two minutes late. The Spanish teacher did not say anything. Indeed, the door was open, and he took seat number 13.
“Your name?” said the Spanish teacher, directing her attention to Bobby.
“Bobby MacKay.”
“Mr. MacKay, you are in Seat 15,” said the Spanish teacher.
“Oh. Sorry.” And so Bobby moved to seat 15 and opened his yellow Spanish notebook.
The Spanish teacher spoke in a slow deliberate manner, pronouncing words clearly, but never speaking English, except when she disciplined students. Bobby took notes, but had difficulty following along. The girl to his left, Christine, was Korean with long straight black hair. Bobby noticed that her notebook was full of carefully written notes. The Spanish teacher seemed as bored as Bobby felt, but since Christine was writing notes in a lively fashion, Bobby figured there was something wrong with him. Maybe the Spanish teacher was having a great time, even though she kept sniping at students for not paying attention.
The bell rang at 10:02, and Bobby was off to his Social Studies class that started at 10:06. he thankfully arrived on time. But the problem now was that Bobby had to go to the bathroom. He asked Mr. Jordan if he could be excused, but Mr. Jordan said that since lunch period was next, Bobby could take care of his business then. So Bobby held it. And it wasn’t easy. This was particularly so because the lesson in Social Studies was to locate positions on a map of the United States using longitude and latitude, and to work with a team, requiring Bobby to move around the room, making his bladder nearly burst with every movement.
The bell rang at 10:50. Lunch time. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Lunch at 10:50? Yep. And as Boby ran to the bathroom in the hallway, he realized he had to crap as well as piss. He only had till 11:16 to finish lunch. That is a mere twenty minutes. So in that twenty minutes, Bobby had to crap, wash up, run to the cafeteria, get on line, get his food, pay for his food, find an empty chair, sit and eat. By the time Bobby sat down with his tray of food in front of him to eat, the time was 11:14. Bobby stared at the food. He was not hungry. he felt a pain in his belly. And he was breathing heavily. The bell rang, and he walked to his next class which started at 11:16. So really, Boby thought, he had less than twenty minutes to eat because he had to get to his 11:16 math class. And that is the class he was dreading because he was not able to finish the math problem the night before.
The rest of the day was a daze. When Bobby got home at 3:22, all he could remember was the math teacher tearing up his work, yelling at him that he got the formula wrong saying “you obviously did not listen during the lesson.”
Bobby’s mother greeted him at the back door. “Have a good day, Bobby?” asked Bobby’s Mom.
“Yeah,” said Bobby, who was too tired to say anything else about the last seven hours.
“”I have a stomach ache,” answered Bobby.
“Your piano teacher is coming in fifteen minutes, so why don’t you practice a little before he comes. You know he was disappointed last week,” said Bobby’s Mom.
So Bobby walked into the living room and sat at the piano and stared at the eighty-eight white keys. He kept staring, and thinking of nothing. Nothing at all. Except he remembered then that he left his binder in his locker with all his homework. He had homework to do in math, Spanish, Social Studies and language arts. He also had to write that essay for the music teacher.
“Mom….Mom?” yelled Bobby. But then he looked out the window and saw his Mother playing with Bobby’s four-year old sister. Bobby got up from the piano stool and lied down on the couch and stared at the ceiling fan that was turning slowly.