Detour - FamilyEducation

Detour

August 12,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

L.'s been coming home from school all week long with stacks and stacks of library books: four or five books or more each day. I think he's got eighteen out now since the start of the week. "Are you sure you're supposed to have all these books?" I asked him one afternoon. "Oh yes," he replied. "Fifth graders can check out as many books as they want." Hmmmm....I thought. Really? Another day I asked, "Are you sure you're supposed to go to the library every day?" "Oh yes," he said. "No one told me I couldn't." For L., a rule isn't a rule unless someone explicitly tells him it is. More often than not, the absence of a rule, or of the fact that no one explicitly forbids something, is interpreted by L. to mean that he can do it. I thought about this on Tuesday, but other more pressing matters took over my mind and I banished wondering about the library books to the far corners of my brain. Yesterday I came home a little after 5:00, after yet another day of meetings, peppered with more PowerPoints depicting even more colorful representations of Bloom's Taxonomy, and the outlining of even more rules to follow for this new school year. L.'s day hadn't gone too well, either, Scott told me. Apparently, L.'s been excusing himself to use the bathroom several times a day, often during math, and then taking a detour to the library, where he happily browses books, and then strolls back into class with a stack of them balanced in his arms. Then he spends class time reading. The teachers have, apparently, figured him out, and forbidden the extra library trips, and clamped down on how many times he can leave class to use the bathroom. "I didn't know there was a library rule!" L. said when I got home. When I heard about the illicit bathroom-turned-library-trips I smiled inside, I couldn't help it--because I had wished many times when I was a kid to spend my math class in the library, among words and stories--my comforts and friends. I also thought about this long, meeting-filled week, and about how many times I had excused myself for a bathroom trip, only to make my own small detours outside, where I could turn my face to the sun, stretch my legs, and wash away the layers of information overload. Luckily, no one's placed any bathroom break limits on me.