Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How We Got Here

When the doctor told me my due date, my head just fell. I couldn't believe I was going to have an August baby. As a teacher, I knew it was possible to just sit on the bench at recess and pick August babies out of the crowd. While the rest of the 3rd graders were organizing a game together, they were the ones happily playing in the dirt. Nothing wrong with that, but they just stood out from the crowd. They weren't immature, they were just not as matured as their classmates. And an awful lot of them struggled in school.

When my daughter was 4, I was still teaching, though not in the classroom. My entire job revolved around our state's test. I looked over data constantly and always noticed the August birthdays and their scores. Not good news. There were a few exceptions. Probably my daughter would be one of those, I thought. She's a smart little girl. Not to worry.

The decision to send her to Kindergarten that year was not taken lightly. See, when I went to school, it started after Labor Day. (Our state law required students to have turned 5 by September 1st). But the year my daughter started, school began like the 2nd or 3rd week of August. She was 4 years old when we sent her down the hall with the big purple backpack on. Sure, she had her birthday a week or two later, but still. We had decided to go ahead and start her because she did great in 2 day a week preschool! First of all, she LOVED IT! She fit right in with the other kids. She knew all her letters and most all of the sounds. She could count to 20 or higher (I can't really remember that long ago.) I looked up every "Kindergarten Preparedness Checklist" that I could find. She fit the bill. My teacher friends even said, "She's a girl and she's your oldest. She'll be fine."

Well, this wasn't your mother's Kindergarten, folks. The first thing my husband and I noticed was the lack of centers. Now folks, it had not been since I was a Kindergarten student since I had stepped foot in a classroom. I had just quit my job 2 months prior!!! In the district where I taught, there were still centers. Wow. We had a lot of adjusting to do.

The third week of school I was called in for a conference. Her teachers were concerned that she didn't know all of her letter sounds. I wanted to say, "Excuse me. But did she not just start school 3 weeks ago? Was there some sort of memo that I missed saying we should teach certain things to our children BEFORE we actually bring them to school? Because I must have missed that memo." However, I bit my tongue. I first told her teachers that I was a former teacher (Reading Recovery trained, no less!) They were nothing but nice and we had a great relationship the rest of the year. They didn't agree with the way things were either, but this is how things are today, they said. They told me what reading level she would have to be on by the end of the year. (It was the Christmas goal for 1st graders at my old job!) Wow again.

So we entered the world of homework 2 times a week, falling asleep on the couch most days by 4:00 (her, not me!), asthma that was aggravated by every cold she picked up at school (10 missed days!), six weeks multiple choice tests in every subject area, pressure to read, etc. I rearranged our living room so her play kitchen, baby dolls, etc. were all together. If she wasn't going to get to play and pretend at Kindergarten, then she would do it when she got home, by golly!

Needless to say, even though she loved it...Kindergarten was not what we were expecting.

The story continues here.

1 comment:

  1. Brenda, go to my blog and see my latest post. It is a (little bit lengthy) post of a chapter taken from my public school student handbook when I was a senior in 1969/1970 at Eastport (Long Island) High School, N.Y. It is about manners and the dress code. Thought you'd be interested. My...how far we've come!


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)