Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The Rigors of Kindergarten" or "Why I'm Currently Mad at a Kindergarten Teacher"

When the school year started (and Peanut entered Kindergarten), we knew that he was going to have a bit of a tough transition. Peanut has been dealt a bit of a disadvantage, compared to his classmates. In our small town, kids like Peanut aren't very common. He's the only kid in his class with a dark skin color. He's the only kid in his class who was adopted. He's the only kid in his class who lost his whole family and his culture...who then had to get used to a new culture, a new country, a new home, and a new family. In the past two years, Peanut has been through a tremendous amount of change. He's making incredible progress and I know that he will continue to do so...but people in his life need to give him the tools he needs (and the chance) to succeed.

Before school started, Z took Peanut in to school to meet his teacher and check out his classroom. During this meeting, Z told the Kindergarten teacher that Peanut was going to need some additional work. He told her that it was important that she be consistent. He told her that it was important that she make it clear to him at the very beginning of the school year what the boundaries were...and what the consequences were for over-stepping those boundaries. Z told her to expect Peanut to do some attention-seeking behaviors...and that these behaviors were related to his past and his difficulties with attachment. Z told her that we expected some difficult days for him and that once he knew what his boundaries (and consequences) were, then we expected he would do just fine. We told her to please let us know right away if he was not behaving appropriately so that we could address the behaviors right away.

We were clear with her.

Yesterday, Peanut had a rough day at school. His "cubby" was red - which means his behavior was bad at school (the first red he's had). So, he lost some privileges at home and had a "talking to" about his behavior. I wrote a note to the teacher letting her know that if there were specific behaviors that she would like us to address at home that she should let us know so that we could help Peanut work on these things.

She wrote a note back letting us know that yesterday's behavior wasn't really different from any other day so far...its just that now she's enforcing the rules because they are a month in to school and the students should be used to school and the rules now. She said Peanut is having a hard time with "Kindergarten-appropriate behaviors". She said she knew we had been recommended to enroll Peanut in the Pre-K program, but that we had opted out of it. She wanted us to know that Pre-K was still an option for Peanut and that she thinks it would be a good option for him. If we want to talk about this option for Peanut, please give her a call.


A month in to school and this is the FIRST TIME we are hearing about his "inappropriate" behaviors.

Why did we bother telling the teacher any of our concerns BEFORE school started? She clearly did not take anything we said seriously. Now, poor Peanut has spent a month at school thinking he was doing just fine...only to learn yesterday that he wasn't. Now he's confused about those boundaries...and the consequences. Now we have to re-teach him how to be a Kindergartener.

Now, I don't want to paint with a broad brush, but I have a feeling that this teacher read Peanut's "Kindergarten Round-up" evaluation and made up her mind about Peanut before she even met him. She's writing him off because he's going to be more work. And I'm concerned that she isn't going to listen to any input that we give her.

She wants us to put him in Pre-K...he'll turn 6 in Pre-K...and then turn 7 in Kindergarten. Am I crazy to think this is a bad idea?

Z and I are determined to make sure that Peanut is not punished for being adopted and for having a background that is "different" than the typical kid in our town. The teachers who have suggested Pre-K for Peanut have all tried to tell us that it is there to "help him". They are worried that "the rigors of Kindergarten" will "damage his spirit" and they think that Pre-K will help him transition better. But none of them want to hear that holding him back (and now removing him from Kindergarten and sending him back to Pre-K) will also "damage his spirit". Peanut has wanted to go to school from the moment he got off the airplane. He was heartbroken when his big brother got to go to school and he didn't. He's SMART. He needs to go to school. When he gets bored, he misbehaves. Somehow, I don't think that Pre-K will engage him enough to keep him busy and keep him from getting bored.

But what do I know?

I'm just his MOM.

My mistake? Taking him to the week-long Kindergarten Round-Up. I really wish I had not taken him, and that I had instead just enrolled him in Kindergarten. Kindergarten Round-Up has only given the teachers an "out". Its given them the chance to pre-judge my little boy and that just stinks. Now we have to work to get the teacher to step outside her box of familiarity and figure out some new strategies that will work for our little boy. He deserves to be in Kindergarten with the rest of the kids his age. He deserves to be given an education and be evaluated fairly. He deserves a chance.


FullPlateMom said...

WHAT?!? That's all I can think of to say! It should never be an option to just write off a kid. My boys are all Black, from the U.S. though, and are all adopted. We have had our fir share of behavior stuff. This was NEVER suggested to me. There are behavior plans and in more serious cases, IEPs. It isn't an option for him not to be with his peers. End of story.

zbert said...

Too bad I cannot write my work off when it is difficult.

These bad behaviors came exactly when his brother went to school, so to hold him back (in his mind AGAIN) would only exacerbate the behaviors.

Besides which, all of this Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers are evaluating him based on typical children with typical childhoods. If he was fairly evaluated to other children of his age in similar situation, it would show that behaviors are younger than his age but grow more rapidly and that he is actually showing age appropriate behaviors for his background.

Give the kid a break, his brother was the exact same way when he started school last year, but he had a teacher that worked with him and now he's doing fine.

pastorsarah said...

I am totally in agreement with you! Isaac was home 2 weeks into Kindergarten and it took him a long time to adjust, but you don't just give up and demote a kid. We had a team conference with the teacher, principle and counsellor and got him extra one-on-one time with the counsellor to work on behavior and extra one-on-one time with a teacher to work on classwork that he had a hard time with feeling overwhelmed in the classroom. we continued to have team meetings every other month through the year. i asked for (several times) weekly progress report emails from the teacher and she gave them with reminders. Don't give up! stick up for your kid and demand what he needs from the school!

Heather A. said...

That situation . . . ugh is right! Can you switch teachers at this point? I don't see how holding him back could have any positive effect, especially if he's on par academically. He's going to be bored out of his mind sitting in a class that is so far behind his skill level a year or two down the road.

Perhaps you can pull in the principal? If the principal doesn't agree with you, get your own independant assessment done and bring that to the table. And document, document, document everything that is said, promised, aluded to. . . telephone conversations, notes to and from the teacher, all of it. It sounds like you might have a tooth and nail fight to get Peanut the education that he deserves.

The Waggoners said...

Have not commented before, have prayed for your family and praised God with you for your many blessings-felt the need to comment tonight.

Researching, finding, then requesting the right teacher for your child then communicating with, supporting and praying for your child's teacher is the only way it will work in my opinion. I have four children, one of which we adopted from Ghana in this last year. The three oldest are in public school and I have 'chosen' their teacher each year-for which teacher is best for each particular child's needs (both educational and emotional). 'Choosing' a teacher is not a stated policy in our district, just something I feel the need to do as their parent/advocate.

I have two kiddos currently in first grade-our biological son will be turning 8 this winter and our daughter from Ghana will be 8 this summer) both are the oldest one or two in their class. So please don't think your son turning 7 in kindergarten is 'unthinkable'. You truly have to choose the path best for them as an individual. It was the 'right choice' for these two. That is not to say I think you should move your son to pre-k, just thought I would say the age really is not an issue. In the future(high school) it might be, but there are always alternatives-early entry to college, etc. Our son is academically at the top of his class, which also means he is out of the classroom some in order to challenge him in some areas.

As for your frustrations with the teacher-she did not choose to respect your openness and desires for consistency from the beginning of school. I agree with you about how extremely frustrating that is and makes you feel like beating your head against the wall. I encourage you to be the very best advocate for your son, and continue to voice your expectations. Perhaps this teacher does not have the patience, love and skill that is required to teach your son who comes with 'issues' that are not the norm. (He has experienced more in his short life than many adults and has overcome) There are teachers in my children's school, who are great teachers -just not great teachers for my child. Our adopted children from Ghana are different from the norm, that does not make them different in a bad way-they are unique. They have life experiences that have affected them, they have overcome, the have adapted, they have survived. The ways of classroom management and teaching that work for the 'norm' might not work for our children. You have to find a teacher who is willing to be creative, willing to learn, willing to fail and try again, willing to do whatever it takes to 'reach' your child.

Our Ghanian princess has been blessed with two incredible teachers who have loved her for exactly who she is and where she is-it is my prayer that your kiddos will be loved and taught by teachers who are willing to do whatever it takes to make your children's education a success.

Sorry for the long post, just want you know you are not alone. You do not have to lower your expectations-you just might have to be willing to 'fight' for them.

Brown Eyed Blessings said...

I think you need to get the principal involved. We had some similar issues last year with Mr M when we tried Kindergarten for him. It helped a lot to have the principal involved and she was able to help us work better with the teacher and have a better result. We ended up pulling Mr M out for the year anyway (and now are homeschooling him) but we left on good terms and felt very good about the teacher at that point - it just wasn't the best thing for M given his personality, experiences, etc.

(This is R from the Barnabette's group, btw.)

Leslie said...

Oh, I so understand your frustration. It is infuriating and saddening. I am so sorry you are going through this.