Monday, May 12, 2008

Say That Again?!

So I had Mister Man’s teacher conference recently. Granted, his “real” teacher went on maternity leave in December, so this is a long term sub. A repeat long term sub. Subbing in a special needs preschool.

Needless to say, I’m not her biggest fan, although she’s a nice enough person. None of the other moms I’ve chatted with are enamored of her either, which makes me feel a bit better. Communication is somewhat lacking, and that which does come home is rife with spelling and grammar errors.

But I digress….

Every season (fall, winter and spring), a progress report is sent home with each child letting the parents know how they’re doing in a variety of topics from doing five piece puzzles to recognizing letters of the alphabet to cutting shapes with scissors independently. Essentially, it’s a scorecard of how the “normal” progressions are coming with each child.

For each topic, there are four levels: not yet, emerging, yes and mastery. I don’t think they really use the first topic and that it’s there to make parents feel like their children are all making progress. Emerging makes total sense.

Then there’s “yes” and “mastery.” In my mind, those two are essentially the same, so I scanned through Mister Man’s winter report (spring comes out in a couple weeks) trying to determine which skills he has circled as mastery vs which are yes to see if I can figure out what he’s doing differently between the two. Unfortunately, I see no pattern.

My curiosity isn’t something to say that Mister Man should have mastery for everything or that he’s the greatest kid or anything like that, but my assumption is that the school wants every child to get to the mastery level on as many areas as possible, so if I can do something at home to help him along, I’d love to do so.

I added this to my list of questions for my fifteen minute conference with the teacher. Fortunately, I had a list. I talked to a couple of moms who went into the conference without a list, had the teacher ask if they’d read the progress report and then simply read what the progress report said. Needless to say, they walked out of there feeling like they’d wasted their time. There were no additional insights, and every question those parents asked (if they asked any) was met with the response that the teacher would have to confer with the team. And unfortunately, the school is located about 25 minutes or so away for most of these moms.

For my conference, I came in with that list and I started asking questions to better understand what’s going on with Mister Man and how he’s progressing throughout the year, etc. When we got to my question regarding yes vs mastery, I got this response:

Teacher: Well, mastery is really kind of an end of the year thing.
Me: (jaw dropping to the floor and brain blowing up and ceasing to function – which was probably a good thing, now that I think about it) Uhh, ok. So why does he have some mastery items on his progress report now then?
Teacher: Oh, well those were there from the fall, so I just left them at the same level.

Excuse me? You’re grading kids based on what point in the year it is? And a child can’t make any progress until that point? What is the point of a progress report if the only progress it shows is that of the calendar moving?

Even my husband (a schoolteacher) was appalled but very glad that I let it go the way I did. Really, had my brain not overloaded when she fed me that line of bull, the conversation probably would have taken a decidedly negative tone, which is not the aim in parent/teacher relations.

The one are she was most concerned about Mister Man was that he was confusing “b” with “d.” I didn’t bother to ask her what she was doing to address that. Instead, I had a conversation with him the next morning about the alphabet.

Me: I hear b and d are confusing you sometimes.
Mister Man: Yeah, I can’t remember which one is which sometimes when I’m looking at them.
Me: Well, what’s the first letter of the alphabet?
Mister Man: A!
Me (realizing I asked the question wrong): Yep, and of b and d, which one comes first?
Mister Man: B does!
Me: That’s right. And because b comes first, it gets to have the line first. Since d is second, it gets the line second.
Mister Man: OHHHH! So b goes like this (finger gesture drawing a correct b) and d goes like this (again with the finger drawing).
Me: Yep. Does that make sense to you?
Mister Man: Uh-huh, that’s easy to remember.

And he’s figured out the difference between the two ever since. Really, was that so hard? And that was her biggest (academic) concern? Can you tell that my enthusiasm is boundless knowing that he’ll be in the exact same classroom next year but with all new kids (since everyone else is moving to kindergarten except him)?

Here’s hoping that the “real” teacher comes back from maternity leave. Or that Mister Man finally gives up his nap and can handle afternoon school without losing impulse control and sanity. But I will say again that he is making progress. We were at a playgroup today where he actually played with the other girls there rather than being off in his own world and demonized by the girls for not fitting in.


Cookie May 13, 2008 at 12:22 AM  

Ahhhh... Don't you just love the things we learn when our kids go to school. That is good that you are able to let things go. I've had my battles with the school district because they want to put my son in an English as a second language class. It was a big mistake! I only speak one language, English! Well, maybe a little bit of northeastern English, but it's still English! Check out my "Story Time" post for that one... Gotta love school!

Steph May 13, 2008 at 6:51 AM  

We had the same talk with our daughters Kindergarten teacher however she openly admitted that she hates the system they use and gave us the real scoop in our conference why is this so hard? I don't remember this being this way when I was growing up.

Karen May 13, 2008 at 12:13 PM  

That is an awesome way to teach the B and D. Hopefully you'll get a better teacher next year.

Michelle May 13, 2008 at 10:09 PM  

Good to know I'm not the only one with school issues....

Cookie -- I really need to know how the ESL was an option.

Steph -- good you got the real scoop. However, the yes/mastery is *this* particular teacher's honest and truly interpretation. Other teachers go by what the child is really doing, not that I totally get the difference between yes and mastery yet. Next year, maybe.

Karen -- the maternity sub will be gone (unless the other teacher decides to stay home and they hire her permanently, God forbid), so he won't have her, BUT he'll be in the identical class with the identical teacher and curriculum, just kids a year younger next year. We'll see how that goes....

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