As an educator, and a former elementary school language arts teacher, it’s never really been difficult for me to trust my son’s learning to the people who instruct him. He’s been in daycare for most of his life. I chose the facility because of its ABEKA system, and also because, being a big, September kid, he was able to move from PK-3 to PK-4, and then into PK-5 before he moved into public Kindergarten. Although I’ve griped and complained and reflected throughout the years–mostly because I’m an overanalyzing, control freak mom–I’ve always trusted in what his teachers were telling me. Now that he’s in first grade, however, I’ve found myself beginning to doubt the system and his teacher.
Mostly because I’ve never been less involved in my child’s learning than I am now.
Reading level books came out about a month ago. Last year, in Kinder, we read a book, completed a small assignment, and then I signed off that we had finished the book. We received homework packets, daily behavior charts, and monthly projects. Tiny’s teacher wanted for the parents to be as involved in their child’s life as possible, so I worked my schedule to accommodate the fact that, Monday-Wednesday, we would work on everything we needed to complete the tasks by the end of the week.
Tiny started on a Level C reading level in Kindergarten. He was a tiny bit ahead of the game, primarily because we’d been working heavily on reading the summer before. Because of that, and because the lightbulb of reading had switched on, he progressed quickly through the next two levels, and ended the year toward the end of Level E.
During the entire year, I never thought about meeting with his Kindergarten teacher. I trusted her. It was only at the end of the year that I thought about learning what I already knew to be true about my son’s progress. I’d witnessed, firsthand, his progress throughout the year. I’d already marveled in his accomplishments, and I sided with her understanding of his development.
I might have complained about my ex’s lack of involvement in all things homework; I might have grumbled about those monthly projects that I never turned in on time. Heck, I’ve had flashbacks about how heinous that 100 Day of School project was–the highlight of which was his teacher uplifting him when he was crying because one of the big eyeballs fell off his shirt (note to self, never adhere cardboard to a t-shirt with E6000 glue).
But, his teacher encouraged him, she believed in him, and I witnessed that time and again.
I trusted her with my kid, much like I’ve always trusted daycare with him.
Which was why I became frustrated this year. The first block that I met was the fact that we have no homework. None. I’ve had to purchase math books, sight word books, and comprehension paragraphs. Sure, we’ve read every night–we’ve always read every night. There have been a handful of times in the past year in which I can remember not reading, but that’s happened when something unavoidable got in the way.
My next source of aggravation was the behavior chart. There was no place to sign, and, after a note to the teacher, I learned I wasn’t supposed to sign. I’ve taken to scrawling my initials every few days, just because. I’ve never wanted to not be involved in my kid’s learning, but now that I’m not required to be, it’s turned into a constant source of aggravation.
I’ve been aggravated that the school-home connection was severed by the one person who was taught to bridge the gap.
Or, was she not taught that in Classroom Management 101?
However, I knew that, at some point, leveled readers would come home. I would have to get involved, I would have to parent up, and I would have to guide my child through the series–just like the year before. We would read the book together, answer questions together, and I would be required to sign somewhere, so that the teacher knew I was involved in my kid’s life.
The first book we received home was a book he’d read during the middle of Kindergarten. It was a Level E, but it was one of the lower in the series. Whereas it challenged him last year, he’d far exceeded the book this year. He proceeded to read it in under 30 seconds, answer all of my comprehension questions, and then ask if he could play Pokémon.
I knew he knew the material. I knew he was bored.
I mean, we’d read the book before.
The trust I’d been grasping at, the trust I thought I could gain, had cracked even more.
Doing the only thing I could think of, I sent another note to his teacher. This made note number 4. I tried for light-hearted, but it felt a bit passive-aggressive. It stated something like, “Tiny brought this book home. It’s a lower Level E book. He read this book toward the middle of last year. Has he regressed in his reading?”
I knew he hadn’t. He’d spent most of the summer with his dad, where they don’t read, but it still hadn’t hampered his knowledge or ability from the year before. From what I’d gathered, watching him throughout the summer, he’d passed Level E.
When I got a note back, it made me a happier momma, but it also brought about more questions. His teacher wrote that Tiny was now reading on a Level F. I told Tiny, “You’re a Level F! Why have you been bringing home Level E books?”
He told me, because we have always been candid about reading groups (kids know more than we give them credit–like the score of every non scored game they play in), that he didn’t know, because everyone else in the group was a Level E. He said he was in the Level E group.
In fact, he told me he was bored, because he had to wait for the other children to “catch up” to him.
The next week, he brought home a level H book, and breezed through it. After that, he brought home three Level E books, and then I started getting empty bags home. We’ve had the empty bag for two weeks now.
I mean, are we supposed to read air?
My trust in his teacher has been faltering since the first week of school, and we’re now two months in. I’ve decided to set up a meeting, in order to touch on a few of my concerns. With everything else that has gone on in our lives, I need to know that my son’s learning won’t falter, and that he won’t fall behind.
Having been so far removed from his learning, a conference feels like my only option. However, I have to ask myself, can I learn to trust his teacher?
As of right now, I have no clue.