Thursday, November 17, 2005

Field Notes: First Parent/Teacher Conference

1. I was thinking we'd have to sit in tiny chairs, but no, Mrs. Lebec had a a table and three grownup chairs all set up for the occasion. We rate!

2. Wow. This school system has some serious standards, for what that's worth. They want the kindergarteners to know 50 sight words, write their first and last names with capital and small letters, and be able to write numbers to 20 by the end of the year. I mean, our girl will be able to do it by June, especially if we drill her, but come on people this is KINDERGARTEN. And what if we didn't know English too well? Or worked double shifts? Or had a bunch of other kids and a sick mom to take care of? Etc.

3. To her credit, the teacher doesn't seem to approve of this any more than we do. But it's her job. She has to get them ready for first grade, so the 1st grade teacher can get them ready for 2nd, so the 2nd grade teacher can get them ready for 3rd, so the 3rd grade teacher can get them ready for 4th, so the 4th grade teacher can get them ready for the Big State Test. She said she's seen it change in the years she's been teaching, and K now is more like first grade was then.

4. Apparently our girl has already heard most of the books Mrs. L. reads to the class. (She credited this to MG's having two librarian parents; I credit it to her having gone to a preschool where they read them all kinds of great kid lit, with little attention to "age-appropriateness," so our girl had heard The Stinky Cheese Man and Captain Underpants and Charlotte's Web and Catwings, as well as zillions of picture books, before her fifth birthday.) So when she starts up on a book MG's heard, our girl will say, "Oh, this is a good one. I've heard this one. They're going to love it!" Or if they're coming up on an exciting part in, say, My Father's Dragon, she'll say, "This is a really great part! But I won't tell what happens. But it's great!"

5. She got checks or plusses or at-or-above-grade-level on everything except "Uses time well" and "Values and respects others." Neither of these came as a huge surprise to us.

5a. The Uses Time Well issue is that when she's tired or sad or just wants to opt out, she puts her head down on her desk or goes and sits in her cubby and sulks. Less now than at the beginning of the year. "I used to come and get her when she sat in her cubby," Mrs. L said, "but then I realized that that was just what she wanted me to do. So now I just invite her to join the group when she's ready, and eventually she gets interested and comes over."

5a.1 It is such a comfort to know that MG's teacher totally has her number.

5b. The respecting others etc. thing appears to be mostly about some pinching. Mrs. L. didn't make a big deal out of it. I think the person MG's pinching mostly is Ginger, who has complained about it to me and to her own mom. When we confront MG she says "But Ginger makes me so mad!" I think it's partly that Ginger is just there all the time, and they're not particularly compatible, though they're friends. Sometimes. When they're not hurting each other or tattling on each other.

6. MG wrote the sentence "I see a chkn" all by herself. Now I know she can do invented spelling I'm going to stop spelling everything out for her letter by letter.

7. She likes to be a helper. The very first day of gym, she hated it, and the next day she didn't want to go, and Mrs. L said, "But the gym teacher is looking forward to seeing you! She needs you there to help her out!" And then the gym teacher reported that MG was right there next to her every minute, handing her things and getting stuff ready and just being her little gofer. Awww!

8. We talked Mrs. L.'s ear off about how MG likes to help at home, too, and how now she loves to teach us things she learned at school, and how she digs her heels in with stubbornness, and how when she was a baby you couldn't even substitute toys on her, she'd just throw the offending toy down on the floor and scream, and...until Mrs. L. gently shoved MG's portfolio at us and led us to the door and booted us out so the next parents could come in. Oops.


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