On the doorjamb between the family room and the hallway, we note the growth pattern of each child with a mark at the onset of the school year in September and again the following June.
"Did I grow? How much did I grow?" the younger ones are always eager to know in June.
They appraise their school year growth by the mark made on the door molding. As a parent, I measure their school year maturation in many ways.
Throughout North County, educators, parents, and students will reflectively assess the events that have contoured the year.
For all school children, one measure of growth will be in a word they incorporated into their vocabulary: war. In forthcoming years, when children reflect on 1991--their senior year in high school, or the year they were in a certain teacher's class--they will remember that the country was involved in a war.
A newfound interest in geography was evident as even first-graders could point out on maps the Persian Gulf, Kuwait and Iraq. The words "Scud" and "Patriot missile" could be heard on playgrounds. Most classrooms had children with a family member or friend who was deployed--the concept of war was no longer an abstract.
For some children, this school year will mark the year they learned to read. "I'm reading now," a friend's first-grader proudly announced to me last week.
School districts in North County implemented new reading series, adopted the previous year. And it was a learning experience for student and teacher as literature-based reading programs were introduced in a number of North County classrooms.
Fourth-grade students will recall this as the year they studied California history and became acquainted with their state. For some families, this was the school year the fourth-grader constructed a California mission from sugar cubes, clay, home-manufactured adobe bricks, cardboard, foam board, and vast quantities of glue. It was a project that enveloped the family's life and kitchen table for days.
For sixth-graders at Buena Vista Elementary School in Carlsbad, this school year will be remembered as the year of the "citadels." Under the tutelage of Bob Rogers, students constructed citadels, or fortresses, complete with a water supply.
Some families will recall most of all the words "science fair."
In Poway High School, students in Barbara Fletcher's music appreciation class may continue to speculate at class reunions in the future whether one of their classmates was the alleged undercover drug agent who reported to the district that she found no drug activity on the school campus.
A group of football players at El Camino High School will recollect the school year as the year they won their division in the California Interscholastic Federation. Players on the Mira Mesa High School baseball team will recall their preseason recognition in a national newspaper. For them, growth came in facing losses and ties with such preseason hype. Eventually, they emerged as division champions, too.
A thousand students in North County will recall Jan. 7, 1991, as the day they opened Rancho Bernardo High School. This mid-year transition merged students from the Rancho Bernardo High School campuses situated at Poway High School and Mt. Carmel High School. From administrators to teacher, to individual families and students who juggled this geographically separate school facility, this year will be no doubt noted as one of growth.
Sometimes the future was spelled out in large manila envelopes bearing news of college acceptance.
"I could not believe it when I saw the large envelope with Yale's return address," said Mt. Carmel High's Tadahiro Suzuki, who will be entering Yale this fall.
For some, the painful memory of the smaller envelope containing the "not accepted" from their first choice was a growth experience. Said one parent: "At my age, I roll with the disappointment life has to offer, but it's so painful to watch my child experience disappointment."
Growth for parents comes in many ways.
In recognizing that you can't begin to count the times you've said "Hurry up, eat your breakfast, you're going to be late," "Is your homework done?," "Isn't that big assignment due next week?" and "I have no idea where you left your sneakers last night . . . "
In surviving the cacophony of tears and hollers that permeated the household when the home computer "lost an English assignment."
Are you wiser for having spent 10 minutes searching the grocery food shelves for a new lunch item called Fruit by the Foot?
Was this the year you scientifically determined how much bleach and detergent it takes to get a football player's pants clean?
Was this the year that your child's math finally became too difficult for you to be of assistance?
On a day when you were convinced that you were not succeeding with your child, did a letter arrive home saying this same child was being recognized as citizen of the month in his classroom?
Was this the year the romantic memory of your pastel prom gown made with yards and yards of fabric was shaken by your daughter's basic black dress made with less than one yard of fabric?
Often, the growth in a child is the result of a good teacher. I write the teachers who have made a difference in our children's lives.
This year, I will thank a teacher for interesting an 8-year-old boy in reading science fiction. I will thank a chemistry teacher who never allowed an 11th-grader to relax the entire school year. And I will gratefully acknowledge the patience of a teacher of a fifth-grader who discovered her "social self" and chattered throughout the year.
As in all Junes that have preceded this one, I know that the marks on the doorjamb reflect only one facet of growth in our home.