“Francie, huddled with other children of her kind, learned more that first day than she realized. She learned of the class system of a great Democracy. She was puzzled and hurt by teacher’s attitude. Obviously the teacher hated her and others like her for no other reason than that they were what they were. Teacher acted as though they had no right to be in the school but that she was forced to accept them and was doing so with as little grace as possible. She begrudged them the few crumbs of learning she threw at them. Like the doctor at the health center, she too acted as though they had no right to live.”― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A child’s first day of school is a greater education beyond the books that are read or the math problems solved, but there is a new understanding of social systems and behavior and expectations lurking beneath the surface.
As parents, educators, and citizens in society we need to be conscious about the messages we send verbal or nonverbal when interacting with kids and teaching them about how “the world works.” Betty Smith’s classic, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” has some poignant statements from the perspective of a six-year-old on her first day of school.
Francie’s experience was fraught with teacher’s pets and favorites, as well as mean comments about her cleanliness as a poor child from a tenement house in Brooklyn. There is so much insight to be gleaned in her pages of her experience in Francie’s shoes as we look forward in how we interact and want to teach the next generation.