Saturday, October 20, 2012

and a little bit more about kindergarten

You all have been sending me the best advice and support since I wrote about the trouble we are having with Little G's school.  Nothing has improved since that last post, in fact I spent nearly two hours in the classroom last week and things were even worse than I imagined.

The teacher is a nice person and I don't want to demonize her but, as my sister-in-law pointed out, there is a difference between liking your teacher and getting a good education.

What I observed when I volunteered made me think that beyond not learning anything (which I had sort of resigned myself to), just spending time in the classroom might be detrimental to Little G's development.  Without getting into details (I have become exhausted by the details) I will say that there is no structure and there are no expectations or consequences.  It is a waiting room for twenty-eight five and six year olds.  At one point I went to complete a project in the copy room and I just wanted to stay in there and rock back and forth in the fetal position.  No wonder my artistic, detail-oriented daughter is coming home from school with pages of scribbles.

Mr. G emailed the principal again after my experience on Thursday and he still has not gotten back to us.  I'm not quite sure what to do.

However, I have been working through this very helpful checklist of questions sent to me by a trusted parent friend:

  • Do you have other public or charter schools that you can transfer to now?  No, the transfer deadline was September 30, so we are stuck . . . barring an epic tantrum and charging through lots of red tape (something that we are of course very capable of doing).
  • Do you want to (or can you) consider private school options?  Not in our current financial situation, though we could investigate tuition and scholarships.
  • How do you feel about the other teachers at the school?  Meaning, can you get through this year, albeit miserably, and find better teachers in following years?  I don’t know.  I need to observe some other classes, especially first grade. (ACTION ITEM!)  I'm also starting to think keeping her in the class might cause her harm in the long run.
  • Do you feel good about the principal and the school administration and do you feel like they'll help you achieve your goals?   Right now, I don’t.  They are not responsive to our calls or emails.
  • How do you feel about the community?  I love that she is in our neighborhood and has a group of friends who live nearby.  The kids in the upper classes seem like reasonable people and good role models.  I like that the other families are diverse in many ways (the school draws from all over the city) but that they all chose this school for its commitment to social justice.
  • Do you imagine finding good, supportive, maybe even like-minded friends there who have similar ideas about how to raise a successful child?  Yes, we already have a really nice group of friends who's company we enjoy and who are excited about building a supportive community and raising kids together.  This is a point that I think will become more clear to me as I tackle the problems in the classroom.  I'm already seeing that some people have a different take on what the children's experience should be. 
And lastly, she said this, "You need to do what's best for your family, and don't feel bad about demanding it."  Others of you have told me the same thing and honestly I can't hear it enough.  I feel like I'm getting the run around from the school administration and the general attitude is that parents should stop trying to look behind the curtain because the educators know best.  Which bring us back to I'm not sure what to do.


Molly said...

28 kids in a kindergarden is more than the NYC limit. That is a lot of kids! As a high school teacher for 10 years (no longer!), I cant give you much advice about the elementary school. But, I do know that studies show that when there is no "tracking" in grouping students, all students are "lifted up" intellectually and socially. But, as someone who taught for ten years, that is to the detriment of the smarter kids. In theory, the smarter students are supposed to gain leadership skills by assisting the other students. There is some of this.
But, would I like this for my kid? No. Will little G be okay in her situation? Absolutely. She has been raised well - and she will thrive anywhere. She will be fine.
When she was 7, my sister basically taught her first grade class because the teacher broke her leg (though 24 kids). She went to an Ivy League.
Is it possible to get tested for G&T?
Good luck!

bre said...

28 kids in the classroom is actually more than the Seattle limit with the new teacher contracts as well. The new limit is 26, so that's a point to advocate for (though if they've accepted those kids and no one leaves I don't know what they can do assuming the other K class(es) are the same size.

Can you spend time in the other K class(es) and see if those might be a better fit for her? Maybe a classroom change is worth fighting for at this point. No consequences and no expectations is crazy- that's like the anti-Kindergarten from what I've seen.

J's first grade teacher who I trust implicitly told me this last year: there is good research that shows that one bad year of school will have no long term impact on a child. Two years in a row is essentially impossible to recover from. So even if this year is awful, little G will not suffer lasting harm, assuming next year she has a good teacher. But if next year starts out poorly, you march in there with research and get it fixed, or switch schools, no question.

shisomama said...

Oh lady. You know I'm feeling you, and I'm thinking about you all and hoping for the best. Be that squeaky wheel. Keep your spirits up. And keep us updated. xoxo.