Parent/Teacher Conversations and More

I started this post in mid-March but never got it out. It never seemed to reach the final piece of reflection that I like to achieve before hitting that “PUBLISH” button. I understand where I was coming from and see this as a work in progress – a continuing reflection.

The whirlwind of activity that leads up to end-of-term grades and parent teacher conferences can be all consuming. I feel really pressed to get through all the highly focused work and still have a handle on what each child really knows. We use a number of Fountas & Pinnell optional assessment tools as well as regularly scheduled Investigations  math assessments. That should provide plenty of information but in fact, when it comes to doing report cards, we have to use a long form of standards based items. Applying the first sets of assessments to the language of the report card items isn’t easy – it doesn’t always jive. None of the other tools are created for use with the SB report cards. The online version we use does not have the same look as the final product that is printed out.

We are two thirds of the way through the year. Our curriculum has been intense. The students are supposed to be reading and writing in kindergarten. We are all reading at a minimum of level B with 2 months left to get to the level C expected for the end of K. Most should get there.  They are also writing very well. We have reached this point by working hard, building the foundation of skills and strategies the students need.

This performance has come at some cost. The cost has been the social and play activities that were a part of a traditional program, one we saw just 5 and certainly 10 years ago. Many of the children in my class really need more time to play (currently 20 min. of Choice time per day plus recesses) but the curriculum is all data driven. During one of our weekly Communities of Practice meetings our team was tasked with analyzing what more we can do to make the grade 3 students show improvement on the state’s mandated MCAS testing.  Sheesh, as if kindergarten wasn’t enough of a challenge on it’s own, we now carry the burden of third grade performance!

I know a little boy who came to school without any preschool, not knowing any letters, unable to write his name, having minimal exposure to books and stories, with a tough family story, few good safe friends, and he was anxious about going to kindergarten. He needed that traditional type of kindergarten of the past. His teachers swaddled him as he worked his way through the day with lots of literacy support from them and specialists. How different would his experience be if he were allowed to enter a readiness focused kindergarten program, one that could address the complex issues of his preschool experience and slowly bring him into the academics when he was ready to focus.

I know how hard my students have been working so most of my parent conferences can show the excellent progress. I know too that the students are not complaining (that much.) But then, they don’t know any other way for school to roll. I do. And I want every child to tackle the challenges they are ready for, not pressured to meet some goals created by uninformed adults.

Thanks for listening to my rant. I needed this reflection to move myself and my program to the next level. Reflection in blogging is a marvelous practice.

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