“Can you come in next Monday at 4:30 p.m? We want to give you some ideas on how you can support Nikki’s learning at home.”
That was an email I got a week ago from Nikki’s SK teacher, Mrs. R. And what did my calm, non-stressed, totally rational mind do? I panicked. I assumed she was flunking SK; then I wondered if that was even possible/allowed? So of course, I went on to Facebook and asked my SoMe friends what this could mean. They thought, on the whole, that it was a good thing. If Nikki was behind in preparation for Grade 1, they were proactively trying to help and I shouldn’t see it as anything other than a positive.
Have I ever mentioned that the original name for this blog was “Glass Half Empty” (which, ironically, was taken so I couldn’t have it)?
As with all ‘new to me’ experiences, I tried to envision how this meeting was going to go down. If they told me she was flunking, what would I say? If they said she needed remedial help… at age 5 … what would I say? What did this mean for Grade 1? Was she going to be behind the eight ball from day 1? Were other kids going to be mean to her? Oh yes, my mind went all the way there.
My Mom had pointed out a couple of times already that Nikki’s writing, when we saw pictures of the classroom on the class blog, didn’t seem up to par to some of the others. I had to take a deep breath at this and remind myself that she had JUST turned 5 in December and was only stuck in SK because of 7 measly days. If she had just stayed in the oven an extra week, she would now be a thriving JK.
So you can imagine that by the time I got to the meeting yesterday afternoon, I was a wee bit nervous (cue the nausea).
Mrs. R. is an awesome teacher and Nikki respects her – I say ‘respects’ instead of ‘adores’ or other similar verb because I think she is a little in awe of her. Just the other night, Nikki said to me that what Mrs. R. said to her was more important than what I said to her. In other words, what Mrs. R. says goes and mommy be damned. Clearly there was a healthy level of respect for the role, and I’m okay with that.
Mrs. R. also has a tremendous capacity to talk. Quickly and with a lot of energy. It’s exhausting but I guess if you have 28 kids between 3 and 5 years of age ALL DAY LONG, you have to be energetic. I would curl up in to a ball on the floor and let the kids cover me in glitter, but that’s precisely why I would NEVER become a teacher.
Anyway, what the whole ‘issue’ came down to was this: the jump to Grade 1 is apparently a big transition, both in terms of classroom and teaching styles. Nikki needed to do some work on her reading and writing if she was going to be comfortable in that environment. While Mrs. R. was quick to stress that she didn’t believe in saying that she wanted every kid to be at level X by the time they stepped up to grade 1, she would feel more comfortable if Nikki was further along with reading, writing and… concepts. “She seems to not understand concepts. Like with writing workshop, we ask them to think of something they have done over the weekend or something they enjoyed and then draw / write a picture for us about it. Nikki tends to fall back to the things she likes to draw: flowers. A lot.”
I was flummoxed. Nikki and I had just had an in-depth discussion about Prince Hans (Frozen) and whether or not he was a bad guy and the fact that Anna, who punches him on the nose at the end of the movie, was wrong to do that; and whether or not she would really do that in real life. Sounds pretty conceptual to me.
Then Mrs. R. added this: “Of course, the other thing with Nikki is that she isn’t always listening. She wanders off to play in the middle of my describing what we are about to work on.” Now THAT sounded exactly like Nikki. “So it’s possible that the reason she falls back to flowers is because she didn’t hear me explain what she was supposed to do.” It’s not only possible, it’s entirely likely to be the case.
I think, conceptually, Nikki is having a hard time drawing the line between ‘play based learning’ and rules to be followed in the class. Big surprise.
So what is the solution? I am to work with her at home to develop her critical thinking and desire to explore (conceptual). And her reading and writing (rote). The latter is relatively easy. Find ways to integrate reading and writing in to everything: get Nikki to help write the shopping list; get her to draw pictures of how her wheat grass growing project was going, sound out the words, write them as best she can… Easy, right? Apparently to deal with the conceptual thinking, I needed to ask Nikki open ended questions to establish discussion. Example? “Mommy, Grandpa died.” “Yes, he did, honey. How did that make you feel?”…
I knew that this was going to be a learning curve for both Mommy and Child. Mommy needed to learn when to shut up and not ask probing questions, particularly when Mommy didn’t want to have a discussion about something. Not everything in our lives was going to become a teachable moment or Mommy was going to go bonkers.
“What are we eating for dinner?”
“Do you love noodles?” (note: dumb question AND not really a teachable moment. Shut up, Mommy.)