A United Front.

This is not about Fat Camp.

It’s about what happens when you have sick kids and clean up puke all day.  And night.  Especially night.

No, it’s not even about that.

It’s about an obsession.  I have been cagey all day.  I didn’t get to go to the gym even though I probably should take a day off.  It’s been 7 straight days.  But I have all this extra energy.  But did I clean or use it to my advantage?  No.  I did the 32 loads of laundry that it takes to clean up from sick littles.  I’m in the “cover it with a bath towel and I’ll deal with it in the morning” team.

It’s about entering my food and activity into Calorie Count and having it calculate when I’ll reach my goal weight (at this rate, July 22, 2011.)  And then on my day off, we ordered a pizza for dinner.  And I was full after a slice and a half even though both of my (formerly sick) kids ate two pieces each.  And a pile of grapes.  And a juice box. 

There is a big something bugging me.  I had parent-teacher conferences with Ella’s teacher on Tuesday afternoon.  I was her first conference.  I came into it a little more mentally prepared.  This is the woman, you remember, who called my daughter a 3 year old in a 5 year old’s body.  And traumatized me for the rest of the fall conference to the point where I heard very little after that.

She acknowledged right away that Ella has come a long way since fall.  She is, in fact reading.  Her teacher puts her at a level 5 “emergent” reader.  Whatever that means.  She knows 35 of 50 sight words (I counted 42 at home).  Can count to 100 by ones and 10’s and is still working on 5’s.  Her handwriting sucks which I knew.  And we are working on but Ella hates it and gets sloppy as soon as I praise her for making a letter correctly.  But her creative writing is going well.  She is learning to spell and sounds things out on her own.  Spells sight words right. 

She can identify patterns and make her own.  She loves listening to stories.  She is very creative in art and music.

But…

But she will not pay attention when in a large group.  Needs to be taken to a small group for the instructions to be repeated.  Will not sit down to do her work; prefers to stand.  If you don’t watch her, she will turn her paper over and make pictures. 

And here’s what I heard for the very first time: Ella spends most of her “work” time with the Para.  Left alone, she will not get her work done.  Her pencil and paper work, that is.  Of which there seems to be a ton in this class.  She has to be nannied and directed and redirected all day long.  Or so her teacher said. 

It is February.  Middle of the third quarter.  And you are JUST NOW telling me this.  Because, from what is coming home…all is well.  Typical for Ella but she clearly gets the concepts.  Apparently, if a lesson is taught to the whole class (all 21 kindergarteners) Ella does not understand.  This?  Is very new to me.

Her teacher then suggested that Ella was struggling and attributed it to immaturity.  She has a summer birthday after all.  And there are a half dozen kids in her class who were red-shirted and are now pushing 7 when my baby is barely 5 and a half.  Her teacher wondered to me if Ella would always struggle.  If she would always be one of the “low” kids because of it.  I just about fell off my pint sized chair. 

My kid?  One of the low kids?  My kid?  Who reads?  And counts?  And academically knows what she needs to know for February of her Kindergarten year? 

What her teacher was trying to tell me, without actually using the words, was that she thinks that Ella needs to be held back.  Needs to get another year under her belt before continuing. 

This?  Is not an academic issue.  This is not an intelligence issue.  This is a problem with how this teacher perceives my child.  I think.  And about how Ella learns.  And about how Ella has learned to manipulate, I suspect.

See that hesitation?  It’s because I have gone around and around in my head about it.  On one hand, I don’t want her to struggle and I don’t want her to be the low kid but something tells me that this teacher is wrong.  I have thought that from the second week of school where she made her opinion and it has not budged. 

She wants the neat child.  The quiet child.  The obedient child.  The one who sits.

Ella does not, and never will, fit that mold.  I realized that long ago.  But what if I’m wrong?  What if I disagree (and I do) and she struggles in first grade?  What if there is something I’m missing? 

This is one of those times when I could use another head.  When I need one of those late night, in the dark, before bed talks about the child that we both know and love.  I need a united front. 

I need that teacher to see, not a struggling single mama and her sheltered kid to bully, but the thoughts of a family who has come together to make sure that Ella not just succeeds in school but loves it too.

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6 thoughts on “A United Front.

  1. Maybe you should talk to the principal about your concerns. Ask if they can have another teacher observe Ella in class, almost like a second opinion. Maybe?

    • As soon as I get done with this next gig, it’s on. I just hope I don’t chicken out. That teacher makes me feel very, very small. And that I don’t know my own kid.

  2. Most schools have some kind of committee made up of parents, teachers, counselor, math and reading support personnel and administrators who can meet and discuss different options and come up with different interventions that are specifically designed for individual students. At my school it is called the Student Support Team (SST) Does Ella’s school have something like this?

    • I’m sure that they do. But I think I need to start with the principal and possibly the counselor. My sister (who is a first grade teacher) even suggested changing teachers to get a fresh perspective. I just wonder what Ella would think of that! Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. I second the previous posts: objective opinions from other professionals will be the key to helping you make an informed decision.
    If Ella does repeat it is by no means a reflection on you as a parent or condemning of sweet E.
    Can I make a suggestion for something that I found helped my girls be able to focus? Music. If there’s an age appropriate class or a teacher (piano,recorder…)sign her up and I swear that with the right teacher she will find music to be a creative & joyfilled mind-focusing tool.(smile)Don’t let the turkeys get you down Jenn. You know what’s best ’cause she’s YOUR little.
    BTW: I’m sending you an email. Look for it.

  4. My son has a late birthday. October when the cutoff in our state was still November. His K4 kindergarten teacher started nudging me to keep him back about November of that year. I felt very much the way you said you’ve felt and I was shocked because he could do the “work” the other kids were doing. She talked about maturity and letting him be a star instead of struggling to keep up. I started observing him in relation to his classmates and began to see subtle differences. It took most of the rest of the school year and much angst on our part before we made the decision to have him repeat K4. I have NEVER been sorry we did this. At 5 years old, there was no stigma or embarassment for him when he repeated kindergarten. I firmly believe he would have had to repeat a grade at some point if we hadn’t done it then. He is now 20 and in college and I have always been greatful to that teacher for guiding us to make the right decision for him.

    Now this may be totally irrelevent to your daughter’s situatiion because boys are notoriously slower to mature than girls and each child is different, but I wanted to relay our success story if that is the road you choose for her. I wish you luck and wisdom.

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