I went to an alternative, private Kindergarden. In first grade, I started—and remained in—public school. Here’s what I remember about that transition:
ON LUNCH TIME:
ALTERNATIVE PRIVATE SCHOOL: You eat lunch,which your mom packed for you in little Tupperware containers, in your classroom while listening to Mozart’s The Magic Flute. You and your friends like to pretend that your organic baby carrots and Kombucha-infused fruit leather strips are, in fact, the Magic Flute itself. This is your idea of a “good time,” though it’s definitely not as good as your Kombucha-infused fruit leather.
STRAIGHT-UP PUBLIC SCHOOL: You drink some red sugar water, known as “fruit punch,” out of a cardboard carton that you struggle to open. When your fingers are stained pink and coated with soggy bits of cardboard, you finally open the carton but spill its contents down your shirt. The raisin-faced lunch lady spots you from across the cafeteria and drags you into the nurse’s office so quickly, you don’t even realize you could probably go spelunking in her wrinkles. The nurse reluctantly fishes through the “lost and found” and pulls out the only article up clothing that she thinks will fit you: a smelly pair of overalls that inevitably accentuate your crotch no matter how much you loosen the straps. When you return to the cafeteria to salvage whatever lunch time you have left, yourealize that your hot dog, which has fallen off your styrofoam tray, bounces.
ALTERNATIVE PRIVATE SCHOOL: You choose what you want to learn. You’ll spend your day milling around your classroom, playing with number chains and pink block towers. Even though your “instructor,” whom you call by her first name, Sima, has never taught the alphabet—and never will—everyone magically knows how to read.
STRAIGHT-UP PUBLIC SCHOOL: You have desks. You’re forced to sit at one that is covered in graffiti and is in the back row. While the teacher writes on the blackboard, which is actually green, the bully in front of you steals your Lisa Frank pencils out of your pencil well. When you tell your teacher someone keeps stealing your pencils, she scolds you for not being prepared for class and gives you a yellow replacement pencil, and it’s not even a Dixon Ticonderoga, but the knock-off, cheap-o Staples brand.
ON LEARNING A FOREIGN LANGUAGE:
ALTERNATIVE PRIVATE SCHOOL: You have Spanish class in Kindergarten.
STRAIGHT-UP PUBLIC SCHOOL: You do not have the option of taking Spanish until everyone in your class collectively has 106 pimples.
ON EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY:
ALTERNATIVE PRIVATE SCHOOL: Everyone is just as smart, as kind, and as good at composting as everyone else.
STRAIGHT-UP PUBLIC SCHOOL: Your first year, you are invited into the “enrichment program” based on your high performance in alternative private school. Your second year, you will not be invited back to the “enrichment program.”
ON THANKSGIVING ART PROJECTS:
ALTERNATIVE PRIVATE SCHOOL AND STRAIGHT UP PUBLIC SCHOOL: Hand turkeys.