Monday, August 19, 2013

Two years ago my daughter couldn’t wait to become “a big girl” and cross over from a private preschool to a public school kindergarten. She was very excited about the magical world of school and its possibilities. She came very prepared in reading and math, but her fine motor skills still put writing in “hard work” category. She really enjoyed her K year and learning not only from the teacher but also from her older friends in K-1 combo class. The first grade was a lot less successful due to a poor composition of the same combo class with the same teacher. Now I firmly believe that the best teachers can only do so much in the class where a couple of difficult kids take 80% of their time and attention leaving the rest of the kids shortchanged.
IMG_0970I talked to Smarty about her hopes and fears for this year. Here is a glimpse into the world of school through my daughter’s eyes:
  • Me: Are you looking towards to school?
  • Smarty: No… Maybe only microscopically. I am like other big kids in Y now. I don’t really like school.
  • Me: Hmm… You know, I always looked forward to going back to school in September.
  • Smarty: Well, it’s because you had the same kids every year and many of the same teachers. I will have everything new – new friends to make, and a new teacher. I am nervous.
  • IMG_0961Me: But you will have some of your friends in the same class, and you will see others at recess. And why are you nervous about your new teacher.
  • Smarty: Because sometimes I can’t wait for my turn to speak. I am trying but I am frustrated when I am not called. Sometimes I even cry a little.
  • Me: But are there things you look forward to learning this year?
  • Smarty: Long division and cursive. I don’t like writing, but I suppose I need it for my job as a mechanical engineer. I am good at reading and math, but I will have to write things down. And I want to go to the best college for mechanical engineers. It’s a dangerous job, because I want to work with machines and invent, so I need to learn a lot.
  • Me: So, after all, perhaps you are looking towards school and eventually going to college?
  • Smarty: Well, yes, I just hope the biggest bully in school is not in my class!
To be honest, my husband and I are jittery as well. OurIMG_0980 daughter goes to a good public school with excellent teachers, but last year class discipline was a problem. We felt that out of total time spent in school, our daughter was truly learning maybe 20% of the time and marching in place for the rest 80%. Moreover, “the biggest bully in school” is in fact in her class together with the same two boys who were causing so much disruption in the first grade. We have made a decision to advocate for her more this year and see if she can get access to more in depth math instruction or to more challenging assignments. Wish us luck!
Your turn: Are your kids looking forward to a new school year? Have you ever asked school to accommodate your child’s needs if your child does not fit into a regular IEP category? If so, share your tips!


Christy Killoran said...

Oh my goodness, we had the exact same situation in Collin's third grade class last year! He is such a bright boy and always behaves perfectly in school, so it drove me crazy that his teacher had to spend so much time trying, unsuccessfully, to deal with discipline issues. I tried to address it with the teacher, but she just said it was "a challenging year" for her. UGH. I'm hoping for a better year for him, but I just heard that three of the 4th grade teachers are pregnant and will be leaving at some point during the school year. I'm hoping he gets the other teacher. Reagan should have a good year; the second grade teachers are all great and so far, her class is a good group of kids overall. We'll see. I hope all goes well for Anna this year.

Ticia said...

I feel for both you guys and the teacher, having been on both ends in that situation. It can be very frustrating.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Oh, I hope this year works out well for her! I definitely recommend advocating, and staying in close contact with teachers. It is hard in public schools where classes are larger than they should be. Emma had an amazing year last year, and I worry about this fall. Johnny had a not-very-great year last year (in spite of an IEP), and I would LOVE for him to have a good kindergarten experience!

I think sometimes you can get special accommodations through a 504 plan, which is different from an IEP?

Joyful Learner said...

Have you thought about a grade skip for Anna?

You just reminded me of one year when I had two boys bouncing off of each other. They would tag team the distraction and I ended up having an ulcer that year. Irony is that one of the boys came back the following year to tell me how I was his favorite teacher. I think he had a hard time the year after. There are so many kids who fall through the cracks. I did the best I could but I know it's never enough. I feel for the kids...

Joyful Learner said...

Personally, I think Anna will be fine with you doing so much for her after school. Her life is enriched due to your love and care!

Rebekah P said...

I enjoyed this post so much. It sheds a lot of light onto a child's perceptions and reality of school.

We are homeschooling for the first time this year. My oldest would be going to first grade this year. And like you said, I think that a very small percentage of her time was actually working on building new skills.

And like you mentioned I was disheartened by the lack of quality math instruction. My oldest catches on to math very quickly yet received a poor math score on her report card. This didn't make sense to me at all and I could only attribut to a lack of motivation to do well in math at school or poor teaching methods.

And yes, as a former teacher, I can vouch for the fact that one or two students can affect the quality of instruction in a class. We have another child who was the one who was disrupting and we pulled him out early last school year and began homeschooling him. We didn't think it was fair to the teacher, other students, or even himself. He couldn't be learning much if he was always acting out and we didn't get that same sort of behavior when we were trying to teach him at home.

The start of the school year brings up so many memories and emotions. That is wonderful your daughter has you by her side to encourage her academic and social advancement in school.

Wishing her lots of blessings in second grade.

Erica MomandKiddo said...

I can see why you are nervous! I feel lucky that we have had good classroom experiences so far. Kiddo's 1st and 2nd grade teachers were truly wonderful and I am hoping for good things as New Kid starts K.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

I do wish you luck for the year. I wish I had tips for you - but my solution to my own school frustrations was not to bother with it at all. I'm impressed that Anna knows what a mechanical engineer might do. When I was in second grade I wanted to be president of the United States :)

Ann said...

My daughter started 2nd this year too and she had a rough start honestly. She had some trouble listening to the teacher who is more traditional. She is more advanced and that might factor in but she just has trouble transitioning. She likes to be self directed. Her listening has improved but I was worried! I did advocate for her to get advanced help. She had a specialist in K and part of 1st. She also went into a second grade class for some lessons last year. Nothing like that is set up this year. Her teacher has told me she is sure she will be able to challenge her. We will see...