Thursday, September 15, 2011

My child already knows everything.

I am really enjoying being in my colleagues' classrooms. I've always wanted to see how everyone else works their magic, and how everyone is different and wonderful in their own way. Each teacher has a different approach, but there are always similar themes that run through the rooms, which makes coming in and out fairly easy.

One thing I have been encountering is that more that one of my colleagues is dealing with parents who think that their child is "too smart" for kindergarten, or "already knows everything." I have had a few of these in the past, so my eyes automatically roll when I hear about it.

I wish I could be very blunt with each of these parents, or have enough expendable income to do my own public service announcement. It would go something like this:

Dear parent of the smartest child in the world,

Just because your child can read every word in the dictionary, count to infinity and beyond, speak two or more languages fluently, and identify every color that ever existed like charmeuse and aquamarine, does not mean they are ready for first grade. I know these children. I love these children. But these children have a hard time telling me what day tomorrow is, or telling me about a book they just read, or sharing their toys with their classmates. These kids have lots of facts and information in their smart little heads but they have no idea how to use it. Please allow their kindergarten teacher to help them learn how to use their smart brains.

Love,
Me

5 comments:

Crayons and Curls said...

You just read my mind! Thanks for the post! :)

Jessica said...

One question- Have you ever been a parent of or had to advocate for such child? I love reading your blog and genuinely get a lot out of it, but this truly incensed me.

I am one of _those_ parents (who has taught so know the frustrations there too). I have a very academically advanced 5 year old. Yes she has trouble sitting still sometimes and sometimes doesn't want to share, but are these reasons to let her mind atrophy?

She reads Harry Potter at home and does her sister's 5th grade math homework, yet must sit in class and listen to "this is the letter "b" it says "buh", and "Now we will count to 20." AND you expect her to sit quietly with more grace than an adult would probably muster in a similar circumstance.

(For a sense of what I mean, think of the most incredibly dull training meeting you have gone to... now, imagine that you have to go to it 6 hours a day for the next 180 days - Yeah, that's how she feels. Can you imagine the level of despair she comes home with every day? Can you imagine her parents' level of despair when she says in tears after school, "I thought I would learn big girl stuff in Kindergarten.")

Don't you think 6 hours of boredom a day (leaving out lunch and specials here) would make you a little antsy and ornery too?

Yet, you have the gall to resent our attempts to advocate for our child within the system and to get an appropriate education and to stop her, quite literal, depression. Maybe not all parents have a true understanding of exactly where their child is at, but give them some credit for being involved, caring, and for knowing their own child.

No, Kindergarten is not all about academics, but the social, emotional, and work habit aspects come easier when a child's mind is engaged. She literally danced around the room and gave me hugs when I gave her a worksheet of 2 digit addition. Isn't a teacher supposed to tap into that desire?

The problem is not a willingness to apply or learn, the problem is that ALL academic challenge comes outside of school. In a five year old's mind the question is "Why should I even be here? I know this stuff." THEN you have problems with them acting out or just stopping caring.

I realize I may be being unfair- I don't know how you specifically try to engage the academically advanced children in your class. Maybe you are a differentiation demigod who can truly provide enriching and engaging activities for children who are performing several grade levels above K academically, while helping them fit in socially with peers who don't understand what they are talking about half the time. Maybe you assess and don't have them do ALL the same activities as their classmates. I don't know.

I can only react as a person who knows the despair and anxiety of a parent forced to watch the love of school and learning slowly die in their child. I can only react as a parent who has tried time and again to work with a system that seems unwilling to bend. I can only react as a parent who senses the scorn in your words and is hurt by it. We all want what is best for the children, don't we?

splatypus said...

Jessica - I am not the parent of child who enters kindergarten much more prepared than their peers (at least not yet?), and I am not a differentiation demi-God. What I am is a good teacher, so every parent that walks through my doors can be sure that I will teach their child at their level. What your child experienced (or is still?) is tragic and I would never tolerate that as a parent or a teacher.

What bothers me is that assumption that I, as the teacher, can offer nothing to the high achieving/performing child. That gives me very little credit. I can offer lots to that child, if you will allow.

I also don't expect any child, high performing or not, to "sit quietly with more grace than an adult", or to behave any different than what is developmentally appropriate. The minute a child starts showing signs of boredom and antsi-ness, that is a huge red flag that I am not doing my job.

I have had high performing students in my class. Admittedly, it's usually just one or two per year. I work my ass off to make sure I am challenging them while also meeting the needs of their peers. That's what good teachers do. I'm not bragging. I'm just aware that I am not the norm. At my school I am the norm, in my county I might be the norm, in the state - definitely not.

Unfortunately it sounds like you and your daughter have had a very terrible experience that will likely define school for her for many years to come. I wish she was in my room, we'd have a great time.

Wiley and Kota's Mama said...

Can I take you to my parent teacher conference?! ;) Thank you!

Wiley and Kota's Mama said...

Can I take you to my parent teacher conference?! ;) Thank you!