Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

When your child's school calls

When you get a call from your child's school, other than the customary check-in call in the early grades, it's almost never good news. I say almost because there are indeed those rare teachers who call (even in the middle and upper grades) to let you know that your child did something awesome. The Hewitt school in New York City deserves a shout-out in this regard (and so does our daughter who is a student there). Last year, we received calls from two of our daughter's teachers who seemed genuinely delighted with something she had accomplished at school. In my experience, this is rare. Academics aside, one of those sentences most parents hate to hear when they answer the phone during school hours is "Hello, this is the nurse from X's school." At least when the teachers call, they generally assure you off the bat that your child is physically okay. When the nurse or nurse-substitute calls (never take for granted the fact that your child's school may have a nurse; many don't), they're not. Or at least they claim not to be.

Last Monday, I received such a call. The nurse proceeded to tell me that my child had fallen down the stairs and hurt her foot. I don't mean to sound cold but my first instinct was to laugh it off. Anyone who knows our kids well knows that they often walk with their heads in the clouds and are easily distracted by conversation and shiny objects. As a result, bumping into things and falling down is a regular occurrence and they've learned to fall properly and minimize injury. Not necessarily so this time. The nurse reported that she had asked our daughter to rate her pain using a pain faces chart and our daughter had rated her pain a 10 so I should come get her and take her for an x-ray. Have you ever seen one of those charts? Can you honestly tell me that any child would ever rate their pain on any occasion at less than 10? I spoke with the patient who confirmed that she had fallen down the stairs, thought she'd just rolled her ankle (like she usually does) so she got up to shake it off and keep going (like she usually does) and went back down because she couldn't bear weight. She tried to stand up again to call a friend to help her get to the nurse's office and proceeded to fall down a third time. She was quite calm and level-headed when we spoke, insisted that this was different from the other times she'd fallen down the stairs and told me her foot was swelling up and changing color. A trip to the pediatric orthopedist confirmed that she had a bad right lateral ankle sprain, which the doctor decided to treat as a break and she is now wearing one of those boot casts (that seem much cooler before you're stuck wearing one) that she's stuck wearing for 5 weeks. The moral of the story is two-fold:  (1) when the school nurse calls, it's generally not to tell you that your child is a good kid and (2) though you may be skeptical when it comes to the pain faces chart, you know your kid and you probably know when your kid is exaggerating or not.

One of my favorite recent books involving a youngster sustaining injury is Raine Telgemeier's Smile, a 2011 Children's Choice Book Awards finalist for 5th-6th Grade Book of the Year. I have blogged about it before and will likely do so again. It's a great upper elementary and middle school comic book/graphic novel that tells the story of a twelve-year old who trips, falls, knocks out her front teeth and embarks on a miserable orthodontic adventure requiring her to wear all sorts of devices, including but not limited to a retainer with fake teeth attached. All this while she's trying to deal with being 12 and anyone with a child who is close to 12, 12 or past 12 remembers that 12 is tough on its own. The story is fantastic and the images are spot-on.  I happen to love that the author's website is because as you read the book, you really can't help but shout "Go Raina" on a regular basis.

Since I've decided it's cheating to keep blogging about the same books, no matter how apropos they seem, and there are so many great books to write about, I've decided to include a second book pick today. In honor of our daughter's sprained ankle, which is keeping her out of gym and sports for the next few weeks, consider picking up a copy of Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman. This book about a thirteen year old soccer player headed for juvenile detention who develops a meaningful relationship with a cop is notable both for being a compelling story and for being a unique collaboration. The back cover says it all:

Here is the email that started it all:
Subject: Email from a Big Fan
Date: Mon., 3 September 10:07 AM

Dear Mr. Myers,
One of the reasons that you're my favorite author is that your characters seem so real and genuine. You're the only author I know of who doesn't sound like an adult when you're writing about kids.
Sincerely, Ross Workman

Subject: Re Email from a Big Fan
Date: Mon., 3 September 2:38 PM
Hey, Ross!
Okay, let's write a story. 80 pages with alternating voices. I do the first ten, then you do the second, etc.... What do you think?
Walter Dean Myers

Hundreds of emails and three years later, Kick is a published book.