We went to our son’s school for Open House earlier this week. I’ve been fighting a gnarly head cold all week, hence my lack of blogging, but I dosed up on Claritin and Tylenol to get in there and sit in that tiny chair behind Jack’s desk.
He colored a stunning picture of him playing outside on a sunny day which was left on top of his desk. On its back he wrote a little note welcoming us to his classroom. It turns out that this was the only bright spot of the event.
His teacher welcomed us to the first grade classroom by letting us know how busy the kids have been. “I have them on an academic treadmill,” she proclaimed. “I don’t do birthdays. I don’t do holidays. There is not time for me to read to them, and we eat a ‘working snack,'” she continued. She then handed out a packet on the “Common Core Standards” they are enforcing with the kids. She talked for another ten minutes and then “dismissed us.” She did not seem to want any questions.
Granted my head was fuzzy from the cold, but I had a hard time processing this information. I wasn’t sure if I was depressed, annoyed, or scared for my kid. It seems they are trying to tighten up academics, teach more, encourage more independence, and create better learners. But is putting our little ones on an “academic treadmill” the best way?
Her presentation lacked warmth or empathy. While I understand that in this educational climate she is under the pressure of being responsible for my child’s test scores (and not much more apparently), she did not have the sense of self to know that telling parents you are training their precious children to run like rodents is NOT the most reassuring way to go.
What became clear to me were the reasons for my son’s apprehension about school. He ‘s giving us a hard time in the morning, saying he hates school, he feels sick, and the usual avoidance tactics. We chalked this up to him being bullied in the first weeks of school, but this situation was addressed. We were optomistic things were on the upswing.
The other clarification I received was why Jack comes home so agitated in the afternoon- his poor six year old body sits behind that little desk all day while his brain races away and he’s desperate for some physical release!
I posted a while back about our struggles with the rigorous expectations of kindergarten. It had been so hard for us to adjust to institutionalized education after our idyllic experience with Jack’s early child care. But at least they had story time and show and tell in kindergarten!
My concerns with first grade are the same as they were in kindergarten- that Jack will find education a drudgery as opposed to finding learning is fun and full of opportunities for creativity. It also concerns me that there is no room in this curriculum to teach compassion, which I feel should be mandatory. This is, however, the system we have. I do not have the luxury of sending my child to a private school with a less-traditional approach to learning, nor can I stay home and home school So, I don’t know any other answer than acceptance and hope that it will all be okay in the end.
School is different now than when I was small. I find it hard to believe they challenge our little ones with so much academic rigor when developmentally their brains are wired to learn from play and socialization with other children. But this system here and now is all that Jack has known, and I will be enthusiastic and supportive of his education. I will also provide him with opportunities to play, laugh, be creative and wild in the time when he is with me.
We signed him up for soccer and karate, both of which he is thrilled with. I hope the physicality of these activities provides balance for him. I’m also making an effort to be a little more laid back with our structure in the home, to be mindful of the fact that Jack has been subject to academic dogma for six hours straight and needs some physical and emotional freedom.
I don’t think my kid is any better than anyone else, but he is mine. So you bet your booty I’m going to advocate for him any chance I get, or when I see a need to foster understanding and compassion. I’m also thinking of joining the PTA, because I think maybe getting involved will help temper my fears and anxiety.
That night at Open House, my nose was dripping like a faucet and I was dying to get home and commune with my netti pot. So, I left without saying anything to the teacher, which was probably the better choice anyway. As you might imagine, I will be on the lookout for opportunities to help this teacher understand that my son is a sensitive, thoughtful, energetic little human and not a simple mouse who runs blindly away on a treadmill to nowhere.
Are you satisfied with the education your child is getting? Have you ever had to advocate for you child at school? Did it make you uncomfortable? What did you do or say?