Grounding the helicopter

School starts in three weeks, and parents in our neighborhood have been speculating about the lineup of teachers since the day school let out. Who is switching grades? Who is leaving? Who do you want your child to get?

I was attuned to these conversations last summer because Eleanor was just starting school. I wanted all of the details, and I got them. The night of the open house arrived, and we went across the street to learn who Eleanor would have as a teacher. Parents gathered around the lists of classes posted in the school hallway, their children squeezed beneath them. Some parents whooped. Others looked confused or dejected. The energy was frenetic. We could have been attending the NFL draft.

Eleanor had not received one of the coveted teachers. As we walked into her kindergarten classroom, I felt disappointed, and I didn’t even know this teacher.

When I had registered Eleanor for school, there was a place on the form to write about her personality and learning style. In theory, this helps the school place a child with a teacher who will be a good fit. In reality, the school has more than 700 students, so the system isn’t that precise. Parents are not allowed to request teachers. I wondered whether a different description might have landed her with one of the other teachers. I had no control over this system, and still I felt like a failure.

I had nine months to form my own opinion of her teacher, and while this wasn’t the teacher I would have chosen, Eleanor did fine. Perhaps it was a good experience to have early on, to see that a less-than-stellar teacher doesn’t ruin my daughter’s life chances. Sometimes it feels as though we are all preparing our children for Harvard. How many of us went to Ivy League schools? Somehow we are getting by just fine.

A few weeks ago, I read this post on the Design Mom blog, and it resonated. I am trying to steer clear of the obsessing over teachers and school. My child is not going to have the best teacher every year, and she will be okay. Every child deserves an equal chance at having a great teacher. And really, children who have parents with a lot of time and resources will suffer the least from a mediocre teacher. The foundation of an education happens at home.

So I am trying to make my perfectionistic self relax, to begin this school year with optimism. And I am smiling when I find Eleanor outside our bedroom each morning reading “Calvin and Hobbes.” She is doing okay.