Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Starting school

Last two weeks of August and thoughts turn to....vacation? End of summer blowout? No, not us - we head off to school, two weeks before Labor Day. And yet school doesn't end for the year until mid June, so not sure what an early starts gets us, except for a long Christmas break and at least one day off per month. So, hi ho, hi ho, it was off to kindergarten.

Our school didn't tell us classroom assignments until we were actually in the school. The absolute sweetest thing of the entire day was seeing E's teacher from last year, with her entire class from last year clustered around her. Before school started, I tried to prepare E for what a new school year meant - a new classroom and a new teacher. Unfortunately, that made the week or so before school started worrisome for her, as she fretted over and over how she wanted to go back to school but didn't want a new teacher. Last year's teacher, Ms D, later told me that kids this age have trouble understanding the transition. That may be, I replied, but she was the only teacher I saw who had her entire former class clutched onto her that first morning. Despite our worries last year, clearly something good was happening in that class.

So we're now two weeks into the new school year, and the transition has been hard for E. Last year she went off without a look back, and loved nearly every second of it. We don't know entirely what it is, and we're trying to stay on top of things, but she regularly says she hates school and it's too hard. Her teacher says it's developmentally fairly typical for K students to get worked up about their "work." If they can't do something perfectly, they get frustrated very easily and want to quit. I had noticed this on our vacation, when playing skeeball. Andrew just loved rolling the balls around, and I thought Elizabeth would just enjoy flinging the balls, too, but if she didn't score points she would scowl and say she was no good at it and she didn't want to play anymore. At school, Elizabeth has been having trouble in the "writing center." I was worried perhaps the school was pushing her in ways that weren't appropriate, so asked what writing center meant - there are number of "centers" in the class, and they divide into small groups to be in each center. At Writing Center, they are given paper and crayons and asked to draw a picture and write whatever they want - a letter, scribbles, or whole words for those kids who are already writing. Elizabeth does this all the time at home, entirely on her own without any prompting from us. But when asked to do it at school, she's just losing it. Apparently there is a little boy in her clas who can write sentences, and this seems to have freaked her out that she also needs to write a sentence. But, yesterday she came home with a note that said she had a great time at writing center, and when I read it outloud she beamed with pride and couldn't wait to show Daddy when he came home, so maybe we're over that hurdle.

More worriesome for us has been the times she's said, I am bad at math, I hate math. This is not something an engineer and a science major want to hear from their daughter. And furthermore, it's not like they even have "math" in kindergarten! There is no math. No one says the word math. Clearly she is repeating something she thinks she should say, and as a firm believer in - nay, proponent of - gender equality in the sciences, I've got my eyes on this area. Our district uses EveryDay Math for their curriculum, and I've been reading the pros and cons. Essentially, the rub on it is the fundamentals get short shrift, because there is not much focus on drilling or the basics in favor of familiarity with numeracy. So there are lots of recomendations to supplement at home.

Stay tuned as we continue to epxlore life in a title I, inner city, rebuilding, non-adequate-yearly-progress-making school in our era of (badly needed but poorly understood and executed) school reform in the No Child Left Behind overly tested modern system. yee ha.


Thrift Store Mama said...

But she looks cute in her uniform and with her super fancy back-pack !

Rachel et Natalie said...

yes we do worry about their learning experience and wonder how they feel with their peers.

I am sure she will learn to love her new teacher, classmates and the writing center. It is hard to be 5.
love your pictures

Rachel et Natalie said...

just noticed that your shoes match hers. perfect

Laurie said...

I hope she's starting to enjoy it more Susan.

Zoe has gone through/goes through a lot of the same stuff in terms of wanting to be good at something or not do it at all /get frustrated. She has on a few occasions said she's not good at something, and I usually try to empathize what I think she's feeling, and then give her solid examples of times when she was good at it, and then offer to help with the new thing she's trying. It works sometimes, but that language really scares me too.