By DIANE R.CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
In addition to receiving grades in academic subjects, students used to receive a mark for something called deportment. Deportment was understood to be behavior in class.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane Chodan
Diane Chodan’s granddaughter, Tori Jo, during a recent visit with her grandparents.
When I was in second grade, I got an F in deportment during the first marking period. No, that did not mean failure; it actually meant "fair" which was one notch up from being hopeless, but was not "good" or "excellent." My mother was concerned and decided to get more information from my teacher.
I was scared when Mom went to see the teacher. My parents, as did most parents of that time, backed the teachers. I was fully expecting to be punished at home. Instead when my mother came home, she was upset with the teacher.
The teacher had said the wrong thing to my mother.
"Why can't Diane be like Ron and Louise?" she asked. "They were such nice, quiet children."
My brother and sister were quite a bit older than I was (about 9 and 7 years older), but since there was only one class per grade at Number 6 School and teachers were lifers, I had most of the same teachers they did. I often heard what great students my brother and sister were.
As I heard Mom explain to Dad in a clearly annoyed voice, she told the teacher, "Because Diane is not Ron or Louise; she's Diane." She was exasperated with the teacher for even asking the question.
I was grateful at the time that I wasn't in trouble with my parents. Later I was grateful for the important lesson. No matter how much theory I received about individualized education in college, it was my mother who laid the practical foundation.
I became a teacher and taught; I had my own child; I was a Girl Scout Leader and now I have two granddaughters, and three "almost" grandchildren. Children don't come with an operator's manual and there isn't a job description for being a mother or grandmother. I have been learning over and over again to let go of preconceived notions.
Since I had trained as a teacher, I envisioned myself helping my daughter Anneke with her homework or explaining things to her. What I didn't expect was a child who began reading at two years old but "failed" reading readiness tests. I didn't expect a child who looked at things in an interesting, if unconventional, way. I quickly dropped the teacher role for more of a "let's find out together" approach. I also didn't expect to homeschool her or have her attend college at 14, but after careful consideration that seemed to be the best course of action.
Now I have two granddaughters who are very different from each other as well as different from their mother. At 6, the older, Alexandra, actually asked to have her bedtime moved to an earlier time. She plays so hard during the day that she's tired, and she's an early riser. The younger, 3-year-old Victoria Josephine, just can't settle at night, but once she falls asleep wants to stay asleep through a good part of the morning.
Alex rolls exuberantly in the fall leaves; Tori Jo will pick a leaf off the ground or a dandelion from the lawn and carefully study the pattern. Tori Jo doesn't talk a lot yet, but as my mom says, "She's not stupid; she watches everything."
Alex is talkative and loves being silly with her grandfather, who says he is a student in silly school. The two of them are an amazing team, each trying to top the other, and becoming more and more ridiculous. Peter invented silly school when our daughter was young. Since Anneke was very serious and took everything literally, it was his way of trying to help her relax and develop an understanding of humor. Sometimes after listening to one ridiculous thing after another she would plead, "Mom, make him stop!" Alex, it seems, could go on forever.
Alex has been spending as much as a week at a time in Dunkirk on her own with us for the last two years. We call it "Camp Grandma." I found she enjoys simple things - making cookies, playing at the playground or on the beach, using a tricycle to go to Great-grandma's house down the street, and running through the sprinkler. There are a number of free places to go in the area. During her winter break, we took Alex to skate at the rink in downtown Buffalo. She and I spent a day at the college visiting the Willard Stanley museum in Jewett Hall and King Neptune in Steele Hall. She is also a Sabres fan, so we watched the games with Great-grandma.
Tori Jo has been here without her parents for shorter times, accompanied by Alex. She has done well, but we hope Tori Jo can have a week of her own soon. Whether I am greeted by Alex with an exuberant hug while shouting "Grandma, Grandma, Grandma!" or Tori Jo's serious face that slowly changes into a smile, it's fun to have my grandchildren visit, and to acknowledge their unique personalities.