Friday, May 21, 2010
Thank Goodness It's Over
Kindergarten that is. Yes, I am overjoyed that my daughter made it through kindergarten because honestly it was not a easy year. Strangely I remember my oldest son having a really hard time in kindergarten to. Looking back at it, he just was not ready for the whole sit down, be quite, look at the teacher and learn how to read thing. And he was only in 1/2 day kindergarten and 1/2 day childcare. You know it is the environment when the two different teachers from each setting gave VERY different views of his behavior. I am grateful that in the first grade he had a very experienced older male teacher who showed him that school can be fun after all. His classroom was filled with plants, a bird, and at one point every child had a jar with a baby guppy and a cup with a baby spider plant on each of their desks. Three years later and he still has the same spider plant, now a big grown up plant hanging in his room. Thanks to that teacher my son did after all learn how to read and at the end of this year he is reading at a level at least two grade levels ahead. So now we are faced with new challenge of how to keep him interested in school for a whole new set of reasons. You see one of the fall backs of education reform is a emphasis on the utilization of evidenced based teaching practices. As a school psychologist I am all for this but in to many districts this has turned into a "cookie cutter" approach to teaching where teachers are forced to teach a set curriculum and it is nearly impossible to differentiate instruction in the classroom. This all leads back to my daughter's experience with kindergarten this year. Yes, the same "cookie cutter" approach is being applied to kindergarten.and did you know that one of the education standards is that a kindergartner should be able to write three complete and legible sentences independently at the end of the year! She attended a full day kindergarten program which was great for her academic growth but it definitely took a toll on her social and emotional growth. You see in our unnamed school district they think it is appropriate for kindergartners to have one 20 minute recess following their 20 minute lunch for the entire day. They also have a 2 hour literacy block and no surprise that the occurrence of poor attention and over activity during literacy instruction in kindergarten is not uncommon. And of course since they have little time to actually have conversations with their peers extroverted kidos like mine get into trouble for talking during instruction. So the teachers use the very popular red, yellow, green system to alert students when their behavior is inappropriate. One warning and they move a clothespin that has their name on it to the yellow part of the chart, multiple warnings and their little identity is moved to red. There are supposed to be consequences linked to each move. Our daughter's teacher thought it was a good idea to notify parents of their student's behavior by writing the color that they ended their day in marker on their hand. A few months into school and this seemed to be the only thing our daughter cared about the first thing we saw her. I mean give the kid a break not only is she already being judged by the color of her skin (even though no one would admit it of course) but now she is being labeled every day with marker for every one to see. And I thought the Scarlett Letter was just a book? Seriously, I know a little bit about the research behind POSITIVE behavior support and developmentally appropriate education. But apparently in certain school districts no one cares what the real experts in child development have to say about how we are treating our youngest and most vulnerable children. Yes, we did intervene, after a not so easy conversation with our daughter's teacher she no longer got marker put in her hand. Interestingly, about the same time, the teacher also stopped returning my phone calls. Hmm, I wonder why? So as you can no see I am VERY happy that kindergarten is over and I am praying that she will luck out and have a amazing first grade teacher. A teacher who will not judge her for her looks or history but see that she is truly brilliant (also already reading past her level) and will feed her confidence not destroy her self-concept.