Tuesday, May 02, 2006

17 days and counting...

My son has 17 days left of kindergarten. And, I am counting down each day, looking forward to putting the year behind us.

It isn't that he's had an awful year, gotten into any trouble or earned poor grades. It isn't that I hated his teacher, felt too sad about him being in "big kid" school now or that he had bad experiences with another child in his class. The reason I will count every day, has more to do with my son's soul. A soul that I feel has not been nourished for almost nine months.

I am learning that a child's emotional levels and confidence can really be affected a lot by their school environment, and it doesn't matter what you do at home you cannot always make up for problems at school with love at home. A child's soul is like a flower. It needs watering, attention, and special fertilizers to grow. Each flower is different, and each needs different fertilizers, different amounts of water, and varied sunlight to thrive. My son's soul hasn't been cultivated this year in his class, and I watch each day hoping he won't come out of this year with a disdain for school entirely.

I cannot say that my son has been treated poorly by his teacher. There is not one specific thing I can say that has made this year a disappointment for his father and me and for him. It is more the feeling we have had all year long.

My son morphed this year from being the first child to finish his star/reward chart in preschool and being told he was special, to never getting stars at school at all and practically being invisible to his teacher. He does not get special recognitions or extra hugs just for being who he is. It is almost as if he's ignored completely. And, as a mother, that breaks my heart.

I went to an open house last night geared for parents to see their children's work and talk to the teacher about their progress and readiness for the next grade. When I arrived, I was given a hello but left to figure out what we were supposed to look through. I later approached the teacher and tried to talk to her about his performance, which has waned a little lately (although he's doing just enough to go to first grade). She didn't have a lot of words for me about him. And, then it dawned on me that she really didn't know my son at all.

Now, my mother was a teacher. I know with a classroom of more than 20 children, it is hard to bond with each and every one. But, I don't think she understands at all how he operates. I don't think she knows how very shy he can be or how he masks his disappointment when he misses an answer or nervousness about not knowing something asked. She does not know that when he says "I don't know" or "I don't remember" many times it is because he's avoiding a confrontation, not tattling or trying to get someone else in trouble. She doesn't understand that his little stomach hurts most every night, he has nightmares, and worries entirely too much for a 6-year-old about what happens each day at school.

When we started the year, we had so many parents come to us and rave about this teacher and tell us how wonderful she was with their child. While at the open house, a neighbor popped in with her first grader to say hello. Her son had this teacher last year and I watched as the teacher acted bubbly and happy to see him, very affectionate and complementary of this little boy, who coincidentally is a very good friend of my son's and plays/thinks a whole lot like him. And, I was left wondering what we had done wrong this year and why he didn't have that first year of school experience too?

Did I not bond enough with the teacher? I volunteered once a month to help her prepare projects for the class, I read to the class twice and will again before we read the end of the year. I emailed her when I had questions and told her I appreciated all that she did. I was an active, but not obtrusive parent, available when she needed me. So, where did we go wrong?

First grade, I have been told, moves at a very fast pace. In kindergarten, the kids learned to read, starting at a Level 1 and moving to a Level 4. Next year, they begin at Level 4 and move to a Level 18 by the end of the year. There is less time for "coddling" than kindergarten. I've been told there are less hugs and there is less time to bond. But, my son has not had that this year at all. So, will he be a step ahead for next year because of that or be craving that so desperately that he continues his attitude of wishing each morning he could stay home instead of going to his class?

This year he has gotten by and will go on to the next level as an average student. He will see kindergarten teacher next year and probably smile and wave. And, I just wonder if she will wave back and feel good about her year with him and wonder what great things he'll accomplish as he grows up? Or will she remember him at all?

This summer will be one of rebuilding for me with my son's soul. His garden needs tending, his confidences need fertilizing, I must try and pull the weeds that have grown over the parts of his heart to protect them from the hurt. He needs the sunlight to shine brightly showing his artistic abilities, his fantastic creativity, his compassion for his friends, and so many other things that make him the amazing little person that he is. I just hope that I can repair the damages done this year, so that next year he can jump into first grade and flourish and thrive like the special person I know him to be.


Anonymous Theresa said...

You know, I had this very same issue with A in kindergarten, and I couldn't wait for the year to end! A is by nature very outgoing, but she's a perfectionist. If she didn't understand something, she wouldn't ask the teacher. She was very quiet, never misbehaved, so she was easily forgotten. And I thought the teacher was a bit harsh with the kids, myself.

I told A that it was ok to ask questions, that her teacher wouldn't get angry if she did so. I also spoke with the first grade teacher, who made an effort to bring A out of her shell. She had a wonderful 1rst grade experience, and really blossomed.

Take care of your son, talk to the teacher next year, and I'm sure he'll be fine. :)

3:20 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

Oh my gosh! My son has had the very same experience this year! We are counting down the days and praying for a better 1st grade teacher. He dreads school and looks forward to having subs. His teacher has also rated him as an average student but I'm actually grateful. I've had 2 friends whose kids had to repeat kinder. It sucks that someone whose heart really isn't for teaching is teaching kindergarten! She should at least switch to 5th grade which sucks no matter how you do it!

Anyway, your son will thrive by having a mom like you. Don't worry. Enjoy your summer!

4:15 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Carol said...

I am so sorry this has happened to your son. My oldest is in Kindergarten also and has had the opposite experience. Lots of negative preschool experiences, but a wonderful loving Kindergarten teacher that gave him a wonderful loving Kindergarten experience.

Even though this year went well, I still worry daily about next year and the jump in academic expectations, as well as, social/emotional expectations. All we can hope is that the next teacher will have an innate need to connect and care for each child in his/her care. A love of learning is the best we can hope for from our kids - if they love the teacher then we can consider it a bonus.

I can't make this year go away, but I have worked in public ed for 14 years and you need to know that most teachers work for low pay, long hours and with tons of personalities (kids and parents) not because it's easy - because they truly love to teach children.

4:16 PM, May 02, 2006  
Anonymous Trina said...

I feel for you and for your son. My son has been in the exact same boat this year. The teacher that he started with (and who we all loved and adored!) left around mid November due to health concerns and the sub that stepped in, although she is probably a wonderful person, doesn't seem to understand my son, at all. It makes me sad that he hasn't had the wonderous, eye-wide-open, fun experience that I wanted for him in Kindergarten. And, I'm trained as a teacher, taught Grade one for 4 of my 10 years and I know that he has missed out.

Thank you for the last paragraph, especially. It is our story, as well.

4:17 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Masked Mom said...

This is one of the hardest and most frustrating things to watch--even if the teacher didn't do anything specifically wrong you know she didn't click with your child and especially at those lower grades when they have the same teacher all day and the tone is being set for the higher grades that can be scary. While we have mostly been lucky in this department, we've had a few similar situations. And this year, my daughter's homeroom/main teacher has a serious personality conflict with her--maybe they are too much alike or too different, but in any case, there have been several confrontations.

There always seems to me such a dilemma when it comes to teachers. If you speak up, there's a danger of making the situation worse for your kid and if you let it slide, not only is there a possibility that more damage will be done, there's the fact that you're not setting the right example in not "standing up" to the teacher. In a situation like yours where you don't feel she did anything drastically wrong, just felt that something was off, it's an even stickier situation.

I think that your awareness of it is a huge plus for both you and your son and I hope knowing you're not alone in your concerns helps as well.

4:27 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger daysgoby said...

Oh, MomCat! How sad! Thank goodness your son has you to go home to - are there any sparkling fun first grade teachers?

How terrible for your boy.

4:56 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Gosh, I'm so sorry for you and your son. You will, as you said, have all summer to rebuild and you'll show him that he's the wonderful kid you know he is. Best wishes for you all and keep us posted.

8:00 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Karen Rani said...

Your son is very lucky to have you for a mother. Best of luck.

Just so you know, my link has changed to www.troll-baby.com. My own domain baby! :)

11:44 PM, May 02, 2006  
Blogger Tyra said...

I so understand this post, it brought tears to my eyes because I feel exactly the same way. I too am counting down the days until my kids are home, this year has been a rough year all around for them and it does take it's toll.

I'll spend the entire summer building them up before sending them back out again. It's so hard sometimes and I understand why so many now homeschool.

8:22 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger "D" said...

my Chick is 16, and never had a good teacher until 5th grade. Like your son, there wasn't a BAD teacher, just no one ever 'got' her and made a connection. Now we homeschool with her, but we've gotten lucky and had good teachers with our little ones. Summer is definitely for nourishment! For finding fun things to do and maybe learning new things without realizing it. I wish you peace and joy!

9:37 AM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous Erin said...

My heart just aches for you and for him. I was an 'unremarkable' child, at least to my teachers. Never getting more that a good morning, never bonding with them, never being challenged, half the time not being recognized.

Because of this, one of my greatest fears is that my childrens schooling experinces will be poor as well. My daughter will be starting pre-school in the fall, and while at the open house I was impressed at how the teachers interacted with the kids. But that could all change when the parents aren't there.

I am so glad that you recognize that he needs more. And what is most important is that he is getting all that he needs from you, even if he doesn't get it at school. I do hope next year will be better.

9:42 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger kiddiecapers said...

we are homeschooling. is that an option for you? he will be home soon...

9:46 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:53 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Wow. I wish you would send this post to that teacher at the end of the year. She needs to know the impact her actions can have on a child and an entire family. Seriously.

My younger stepdaughter's third grade teacher was a passive aggressive jerk to her. I always felt like she really didn't like my stepdaughter. My husband and I were always in that classroom helping out, bringing anything she needed and discussing my stepdaughter with her. A couple of weeks after the school year ended, I saw the teacher at the grocery and she PRETENDED SHE DIDN'T KNOW ME. Looked right at me and kept on going. I have seen her many times since then and she has ignored me ever since that school year ended. It reminded me that adults can behave like children, too and that there are going to be teachers who just don't like my kids, just as there were a few teachers who didn't like me when I was a student for no apparent reason.

Better luck next year. And you have the summer to get him back on track.

10:55 AM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Moxie said...

Hi Steph. Just read your post over at Very Mom's, and was wondering if you'd done any T-Tapp exercises. They're specifically designed to open up the lymphatic system to help your body regulate glucose level, and most people end up losing weight, too. One move in particular, Hoe Downs, has been clinically shown to drop blood glucose level by 60-80 points just by doing the 3-minute exercise. Apparently some people are controlling their diabetes enough just by doing Hoe Downs several tiems a day that they can stay off insulin. Go to the T-Tapp website (t-tapp.com) and look in the "Try Before You Buy" and "Articles" sections for the how-to photos on Hoe Downs.


5:50 PM, May 03, 2006  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience with your child's school. My advice is to have a discussion with the principal and bring up all those things you did in your post. If he's decent and open, he'll welcome input. You'll be doing that teacher, and future students a favor.

9:40 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Thanks for all the advice everyone. On the homeschooling, I just really don't think I have the right patience to do that myself, although I admire the many of you who do.

Our school is ranked among the highest in our state and there are great teachers. His current teacher is very good, she has just not reached my child or tried to much (in my opinion). I look forward to next month, when I suspect he'll be back to his silly and happy self and we can put this year behind us. It really helps knowing there are parents out there who have weathered this before and came through it OK.

10:37 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger Shelli said...

I totally can relate to what you are saying. It sounds like my son is a lot like yours. It is sad that this teacher is teaching kindergaarten instead of maybe 4th or 5th grade where she maybe would be better suited.

My daughter, who wanted to be an art teacher at one time, had an art teacher once who when they were having an Art, Music and Technology fair at school, told my daughter that her artwork wasn't good enough to showcase. My daughter was crushed. In her high school years, she had an art teacher who gave her extra supplies and time because she is a talented artist. I am glad that the bad teacher wasn't able to squash her love of art.

I am hoping that your son gets a loving and affectionate teacher next year who will make him forget the bad teacher that he had this year.

8:09 AM, May 04, 2006  
Blogger Alison said...

Oh, Steph, this just sends chills down my spine as I anticipate sending my younger son to kindergarten this fall! I know just what you are talking about. I kind of feel it with my older son right now, and I know that my younger son is even more sensitive to things like that than the older one is. In fact, I feel that we all pay at home anytime the younger one has a less than stellar day at preschool! He comes home & takes it out on us. He thrives when he's had loving, nurtuing preschool teachers, and withers when his teachers are less interested. At the beginning of this school year, when we were in Texas, his preschool teachers took no special interest in him, and were not particularly affectionate, etc., which was a huge change from his class at a different school the previous year. They were fine, you know? Not mean or anything, and the class had a lot to offer. But he often tried to get out of going to school. I was really surprised when he left school for the last day before he was going to move and they only waved a perfunctory good-bye and went back to what they were doing! My other son's first grade teacher did a lot more than that.

In their new schools, the situation is nearly reversed. His preschool teachers in Florida are more demonstrative and more enthusiastic in general, and I just feel better about the situation (though it costs so much more I'm still glad it's ending this month!). But he still comes home upset if a kid even looks at him funny or he feels left out by other kids at all, and even in an ideal situation I wonder how he'll adjust to an all-day school setting where it's mainly about work and not about fun & play! Meanwhile, my older son left a public first grade class with a very kind, loving teacher who obviously cared about him as a person and made a special effort to understand him even when he had difficulties, and another teacher who gushed about him from a special enrichment class he went to for creative kids. His new teacher is also nice and I like her fine, but the class is more rigorous, I guess, and while she is definitely making an effort to get to know him (and even swings with him sometimes when he has no one else to play with!), I think her expectations are just different and he can't meet them. I also worry at the moment that she'd just like to label him. In meetings we've had, I thought she looked almost surprised when I mentioned some interesting things he'd said or done, like she didn't know he even did those things (which I consider fundamental things about him), and I also felt slight resistance from her when I described behavior that didn't match what she had observed at school.

But it's more than that--it's just a general sense of feeling more welcomed at the old school than the new one. There is one administrator at this school who seems to feel especially warmly towards my son, but in Texas I kind of felt that way about the whole school. This is also one of those top-rated schools, and though my son says he likes it better because it's more challenging for him, I think he's more stressed out by it and isn't getting so many warm fuzzies. I've seriously been considering switching to a private school, but the cost is a big obstacle right now, and I don't know if that would be better or not. He went to a small private school for preschool & kindergarten, and while it definitely had more of a family feel to it and we felt like more a part of things there in a way I wish I felt about his school now, his kindergarten teacher wasn't particularly nurturing, and I had heard rumors of less-than-friendly teachers in higher grades.

Sadly, I think that as kids get older they just get less nurturing. A 3rd grade teacher is never going to be able to offer what a preschool teacher can, for instance--they've got too much to get done. But even at those ages the teacher's attitude can make such a big difference. But when I think back to my own childhood, even though I went to what I considered an encouraging, nurturing private school through 7th grade, most of my teachers really were not that way. The majority of my teachers were just teachers to me, not people I bonded with, and a few were even mean or unpleasant to me. Of 14 years of schooling (preschool through 12th grade), I can only remember a few teachers that stood out to me as being an especially positive influence in my life. So, I suppose I can't expect any different for my children, even though I wish I could hand-pick all their teachers and make sure they get nurtured every year!

10:08 AM, May 07, 2006  
Anonymous Pearl said...

Oh too bad the teacher didn't connect with him all year! I hope his luck is better in grade 2.

Finding and celebrating each person's special way is a gift and a skill. I can't imagine doing it as deftly as some seem to.

2:41 PM, May 08, 2006  

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