Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Frontline

My teammates have been grumbling about getting our testing done and data inputted by the school district's deadline. I agree with the grumbling, it's a whole lot of work that takes away from our teaching, and much of the work doesn't really inform our instruction. I can happily deal with data crunching if it's helping me plan my lessons, but busy work for the sake of busy work certainly deserves grumbling.

I happen to be very lucky to have two co-teachers in my classroom this year. I teach in an inclusion school so our special education teacher co-teaches with me and our reading specialist is also co-teaching with me this year. Out of the many benefits of this arrangement, the one that is most helpful when talking about testing is that my classroom has three teachers to complete testing when others on my team have to do it all on their own.

This realization got me thinking about kindergarten teachers and how we're the front line in the army of teachers in our school. We often know very little to nothing about kindergarten students when they arrive at our school. Unless they're transferring to us from a special education program at another school, all we have their name, birth date and address.

Our school has designated classrooms (this year three) where our special education kindergartners are mixed in with general education. This is done so our special education teacher can actually service these students. These three classrooms have some level of expectation on the first day because we know some of our students already, usually 3 or 4 students out of 20.

Then there's the rest. All of a sudden, a kindergarten teacher who has neither a special education co-teacher or a literacy co-teacher can easily be faced with students who clearly need more support than your average five year old. A child who appears to have no experience in a group setting and has social/emotional problems can be quite a challenge, two or three of these kids in a classroom can make for a very tough year. Instructional Assistants are incredibly important in our classrooms, but as I discovered last year, they should not, and cannot, be focused on one or two students all day everyday. It's not their job, nor their area of expertise.

Largely, by the time these kiddos get to first grade, they've either a) adjusted to school and its expectations or b) been "flagged" or even identified as a child with special needs. First grade teachers have a head's up about what's coming their way.

So yeah. Kindergarten is the front line. Maybe they should start issuing Kevlar with our science kits.

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