I sit quietly for 40 minutes as the two young teachers ramble on about chapter books and the importance of breaking out numbers when you do three-digit addition before combusting and interrupting the conversation.
“Spelling tests,” I finally say, locking eyes with the bubbly 30-something steering the conversation and whose blue eyes remind me of the actress Courteney Cox. “You don’t believe in giving spelling tests?”
She lights up. “You’re not the first parent to ask that question,” she says.
I would hope not.
My daughter goes to one of the best public schools in the city. It’s a hop and skip from Wall Street and stocked with the children of some heavy hitters. These Type A parents pour money into the PTA so their kids can have art, music and dance classes. And though appreciated, it’s still bothersome that my 9-year-old knows the difference between a Picasso and Jackson Pollack painting, but thinks the clear liquid that comes out of the faucet is spelled “wadder.”
The teacher presses forward theorizing there’s no need for spelling tests. That kids don’t need to memorize words, but instead should spell by sounding words out. Fine. But what about those words with silent letters and rules like “I before E except after C?” And tricky words like phone?
Around the corner from the school is Goldman Sacks whose hallways are littered with B school graduates from the Ivy Leagues. I bet they can spell I think.
“And you have data to back this up?” I ask, throwing a look at the Teller of the pair.
She nods. I think.
I like the teachers and I like the school. But I’m a white-knuckle parent. I can only be Zen so long before I panic, as I did last spring when Savannah began struggling with her multiplication tables, and dial Kumon. Its learning system was developed by a Japanese father so is counterintuitive to the America way, but damn if route drills don’t work.
“There is a free online program that helps with spelling,” old blue eye says, offering me a solution.
I jot down the name of the site, but can’t shake the feeling that we’re raising a nation of children who can’t spell.