Hard work being in fourth grade

It’s hard work being in fourth grade. I know, because several years ago, I went to fourth grade.

I have some very clear memories of fourth grade, most of which involve having my name written on the board with a checkmark next to it. My name was on the board because I had done something bad, usually because I was talking. The next step was for my name and checkmark to be circled, after which something REALLY BAD would happen. Having your name and checkmark circled was so horrific I never did find out what that really bad thing was. I knew my limits.

But I also know how hard fourth grade is because I attended fourth grade with my daughter, as part of the Watch Dogs program, a program that helps students be exposed to well-adjusted and exemplary male figures. Even with that high standard, they still got me.

No, really, it’s a program where dads can go to school with their kids. So I took a day off of reporting, and went to school. It was a fun, eye-opening experience.

While I was there, I’m happy to report that no one had their name put on the board, check marked, or circled. All of the children were well behaved and polite. They were also rambunctious and pretty excited to have a visitor in their classroom.

I’d have to say that fourth grade has changed over the years. There is one thing that fourth graders do a lot more than when I was in fourth grade: they read. They read what they choose to read. When I was in fourth grade, the majority of our reading was short sections out of text books, which nobody, including most of the teachers, wanted to read.

But now, a portion of the day is set aside for children to read whatever it is they want to read. While I was there, several students gave a verbal report on what they were reading and whether they would recommend it to a friend. That’s pretty significant, I think.

Another big change is computers. I did have computers in fourth grade. We didn’t have computers in first, second or third, but by fourth grade six green-screen Apple computers were stationed in one room. Apple gave computers to schools across the United States in hopes that when we were adults we would buy more Apple computers. That was forward thinking of Apple, but meant that they didn’t make any money for 15 years, and then made a whole bunch, because ultimately the plan worked.

Those computers were relatively useless. We used them for typing practice, which could have been done on any old typewriter, and for playing the video game Oregon Trail, which was about as educational as Pokémon Go.

But now they have computer labs, and also have Chromebook computers for every student in each classroom. Each day, math class consists of students pulling out computers to work at their own pace. When I was in school, there was no way for you to work at your own pace in anything. This allowed for a few students to get left behind. They are probably still there, trying to figure out long division.

There is also a lot more support staff. I think my school had a support staff of two: one principal and one secretary. All others who worked there were teachers. No teacher’s aides, no help for those poor souls who chose the teaching profession.

There is one thing that has not changed since I was in fourth grade: standing in line. That just happens to be the nature of school. There is always a lot of waiting, for lunch, for recess, for the bathroom, for that final bell to ring. But that’s okay. Our kids can learn a little patience too while they are at school.

I have to thank our teachers for doing what is really a hard job keeping those rambunctious kids in line, and those teachers aides, librarians, custodians, and everyone else who helps the machine run smoothly. It’s a great opportunity to entrust our children to you.

Thanks for reading!

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