Madison, First Grade

The new school year has begun and with each school year comes challenges.  A recurring challenge in my home involves my 6 year-old daughter Madison.  You see, Madison likes to talk A LOT.  Understanding this innate truth about my sweet child, I let her first grade teacher in on this poorly kept secret last week on “Meet the Teacher” night.  The teacher introduced herself and I quickly turned the conversation to Madison and gave the teacher the 411.  “Hi, how you doin’, what a darling classroom, so anyway this is Madison and she is a smart girl who is extremely gregarious.  Basically, she never shuts up.  When her mouth is going 100 mph in class, just understand that I warned you and, if it makes you feel any better, she won’t be quiet for me either and I’ve been living with her for six yearsSo good luck with that and have a nice year.”

On the second day of school, Madison brought home a note from her teacher for talking too much in class.   Here we go.  When she sheepishly brought me the note, I looked into her giant blue eyes and  said, “Well, honey, at least you made it to the second day.”  I then launched into my now-familiar lecture about the importance of listening, being respectful, learning to keep her mouth shut, not interrupting, yada, yada, yada.

When I was finished with my lecture, Madison passionately argued in her defense.  “But, Mom, the teacher NEVER lets me talk.  I raised my hand and she saw me and, you know what she did, Mom?  She IGNORED me, Mom!  She totally ignored me!  Can you believe that?  And guess what else, Mom?  If you get in trouble one time in the morning, you’re in trouble for the whole day.  The WHOLE DAY, Mom!”  (Sniff.  Sniff.  Cue fake tears for dramatic effect.) 

As Madison was pouring her heart out to me about the injustice of being silenced, my mind flashed back to my own elementary school experience.  I was a very good student, but whenever I would bring my report card home for my mother’s signature, it nearly always included one poor mark — “Needs Improvement in Talking.”  My dear mother would express her disappointment and sternly caution me against being so talkative.  She would ask me to do better next time, and I promised to try, but I continued to face criticism for talking too much.

Once, in third grade, my teacher asked for a volunteer to read from our story book.  There I was, waving my hand frantically in the air, practically leaping out of my tiny desk trying to get the teacher’s attention.  She looked right at me — right through me — and had the audacity to call on some other kid.  What the …?!  Who does this broad think she is?  To show my displeasure, I stuck my tongue out at the teacher when I thought she wasn’t looking.  Unfortunately for me, she was looking and all Hell broke loose when she caught me with my tongue still jutted out and my nose wrinkled in disdain.  I was written up, sent to the Principal’s office for an inquisition, and ratted out via rotary dial to my mother.  With all of the hullabaloo, I felt like I had committed the unpardonable sin.   Thou shalt not stick thy tongue out at thy teacher, so saith the Lord. 

In hindsight, I think I got a bad rap for being a Chatty Cathy.  After all, the gift of gab has served me well in life.  I always made As on all my speeches and presentations when other kids practically passed out or had an anxiety attack if they had to say a word in public.  Many of those quiet, well-behaved children didn’t have the chutzpah or self-confidence to make themselves heard,  while I sailed through college and law school, winning awards and competitions for public speaking.  When I became an attorney, I initially worked as a prosecutor in my local state attorney’s office where I got to say super cool stuff like, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, on behalf of the Great State of Florida, I submit to you that the defendant is GUILTY beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt!”  Eventually, I landed where I am today — a corporate litigator who is essentially paid to talk — a virtual mouthpiece-for-hire.  Along the way, I’ve held a variety of leadership positions, including President of the Future Business Leaders of America in high school, President of the Criminal Law Association in law school, and President of the local chapter of the Federal Bar Association.  Needs Improvement in Talking?  Ha!  I think not.

After signing the first (but certainly not the last) teacher’s note of the school year, I hugged my spirited little girl tight, encouraged her to try better tomorrow, and sent her off to do her homework.  As she walked away, I hoped she wouldn’t look back and catch me grinning.

Marilyn, First Grade