Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Um . . . Okay, But I'm Kind of Sad and Nervous About It

All summer, we have eagerly awaited the afternoon when we could walk over the school and find out who the Boy's teacher will be for his second grade year. We made that walk yesterday afternoon with another family. Would he get second-grade teacher A, whom we're hoping for? Would he get second-grade teacher B who would also be okay? Would he get second-grade teacher C, whom we'd rather not have?

Turns out, none of the above. He is getting teacher D, who taught first grade last year and who is, this year, teaching a 1st-2nd split. The class will have 16 first graders and seven second graders. When I looked at the list, it was hard for me not to feel that the Boy has been held back. And this is difficult to digest, since he's such a smart little guy. I know that's kind of a cliche thing for me to say. We all think our kids are smart, but, really, he is. He may not be a genius, he might not be gifted, but he's got some pretty stellar academic skills--for one, he's great at thinking algebraically, which pleases his father to no end. And he performed fine last year. Not at the top of his class, but fine.

I know the other second graders on the list for the split class. They all struggle a bit academically. My Boy has a few challenges, too. For example, while he can sound out words like nobody's business, he struggles with reading fluency. I think reading just hasn't clicked yet for him. So I understand the reasons he would be assigned to the class. His reading is a little behind. Plus, he's a tiny guy, and he's kind of goofy--in a totally awesome way, of course.

But I'm bothered by this class assignment for two main reasons: First, this classroom is in the pod of first grade classrooms. Whereas all his friends will be moving to the other side of the school, he will still be next to the first graders and kindergarteners. In a sea of first graders, he will be among six other second graders. Also, all the kids think of Teacher D as a first-grade teacher because that's what she has been in the past. Will the other kids tease him or even innocently ask him why he's in first grade again? Probably. The boy, himself, doesn't really understand it. I tried to explain it to him, and he said, "That class sounds weird." He was mollified, however, by the fact that he will go out to the same playground as his friends. But knowing what I know, I worry that those friends will start to move on without him, to leave him behind. Out of sight, out of mind.

This morning, I woke up early thinking about it, and I could tell hubby was awake, too. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at me to see if mine were open:

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"The Boy's school."
"Me, too," he said.

I also think that if the Boy had done summer school, he would be in a regular second grade class. He was on the cusp for a summer school recommendation, but his first grade teacher didn't really think it was necessary, and we figured we could work on reading at home (which we did, and he's improved quite a bit!). So we decided to forego it. Now, I kind of wish we hadn't. I think they would have placed him differently.

So I'm sad for the Boy. All of his friends are moving to the second grade wing. Some of his friends are even going into a 2nd-3rd grade split. I looked at the list. They are the kids that are a little bigger. They are the kids that can read better.

I'm starting to cry as I write this. I just want, so much, for my Boy to be happy. I think he's sad, and it makes me very sad to see him sad. And now I'm kicking myself for all of the hullabaloo and lead up to checking the teacher lists, which turned out to be confusing and disappointing. And I'm wishing the school had called us to let us know that they had made this decision when, surely, they must realize that the decision--as justified as it may be--will have implications for the child and the family.

But as I sit here trying to pull it together, I'm reminded of a little fable about a Chinese farmer that goes something like this.

One day, a farmer's horse ran away. His neighbors said, "That is bad."

"We'll see," he said.

Then the horse came back, and brought many wild horses with it. Everyone said, "That is good!"

"We'll see," he said.

Then, when his son was breaking the horses, he was thrown and his leg was broken. "That's bad," everyone said.

"We'll see," said the farmer.

Then, the military leaders showed up to draft all of the young men into service. The son couldn't go to war because his leg was broken. "That's good," said the farmers' friends.

"We'll see," said the farmer.

I can't remember the rest of the tale, but I have oftened relied on this story. So, right now, I feel that this is how I must think about it. It seems bad and sad and difficult, but "we'll see." I am somewhat comforted by the fact that I like the teacher. I don't know a lot about her, but I know there are some good things about her.

So. We'll see.


Amstr said...

A note from my mildly informed GATE coordinator experience: combo classes can be amazing for kids (many schools around here purpose to have as many split grade classes as they can). Also, it sounds like they may gave 'clustered' students, which can also be really good (at least according to late 90s research). Having a smaller range of abilities can often allow students who would have been average in one class be the star in the clustered class, and for some reason stardom makes kids achieve even more (even students in the 'lower' class often achieve on par with the stars from all the other classes.

But theory aside, it's hard to have so much confusion about it! We'll be thinking of the Boy and sending him our best 2nd grade thoughts.

Cathy said...

I don't know what to say to make either you, your hubby or your boy feel better. However, I will say that in all of the split classes at my sons' elementary school, they have been students who generally have excelled independently - meaning they required less hand-holding and were more likely to work well on their own.

In addition, the students in the split classes often have LOVED them and they have thrived with the continuity of having the same teacher two year in a row. Although admittedly that is not the case for your boy.

Of course, I don't know your school or your son, or other kids in the class, but sometimes things are not always what they seem.

I find the timing of your post to be interesting as I was just sitting here thinking that I get to learn who my son's first grade teacher will be this year. I think it is my first time where I have a child who really wants a specific teacher. And, I was wondering how to deal with it should it not pan out.

Best of luck for you and your boy this year.

Anonymous said...

My mother used to teach split classes, both grade 1-2 and 5-6. The teachers rely on the seasoned students to carry the group forward. Your boy will be a star since he improved with reading over the summer, and he will feel ahead of the group already in math since that's what he's good at. You just wait until the others start asking him for help, then he'll really shine.

....says someone who was "held back" in 5th because of reading.

C. Troubadour said...

Oh, GEW! I feel for you and the Boy. It sounds like the unexpectedness of the whole situation is adding to the stress and the what-ifs. It's harder to maintain our sangfroid in the face of a challenge when we don't see it coming.

I imagine there's a good deal of responsibility on the school and its teachers in managing how the students perceive the class assignments. I'm hoping they'll be sensitive to the natural conclusion you and anyone else might come to about the second graders in the 1st/2nd group, even if it's not what it seems. Would it give you some peace of mind to talk with the school about how the decision was made for the Boy and what the purpose of his placement is? Is there a chance of moving to the exclusively 2nd grade group mid-year so he can be with the peers he's gotten to know (if that's what the Boy wants)? A lot of questions, I know. Just thinking out loud.

I'm sure it's also worrisome to go to the school with these concerns because of how they might be taken. I do know how it feels to have a parent question my judgment as a teacher, but I also know I was glad that parents were looking out for their kids when they asked questions. (I did some inner-city teaching, where many of my students didn't have someone at home to reinforce academic accountability, so the parent-teacher partnership was hard to cultivate.) I'm hoping for open ears on the administration's end, if you do choose to talk with someone.

Wishing for good outcomes, whatever they may be.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I really understand what you're going through. My son was assigned to a special day class for his speech delay. Then last week, the teacher said he needs to be in a different class because he's more advanced than the other kids. Okay, that's nice to hear, but he still really needs help. So he's been in school for three + weeks, and loves all the people in his class and his teachers, but now he's going to be moved to another school with a split class with kids that are somewhat delayed and "normal" kids. I worry he will be picked on and treated different. It's stressful. Not only is he having to change, but he's going from the top of the heap to the bottom again. I'm really worried about how this is going to turn out. So anyway - I get it. Feeling for you and your family!

loveskidlit said...

That's rotten, GEW, and I'm cross on your behalf that the school hasn't done a better job of communicating with you all. If all students and classes were clustered, then that would be one thing, but to spring it on you?

You definitely are in need of/owed a sit down and a thorough discussion. The school may well have a good argument, but it's useless if they don't communicate it.

It's a delicate balance with being pushy and being an advocate for your kid(s), I know. But you guys can handle being pushy for a good cause!


The Steel Magnolia said...

I'm so sorry for all the confusion and icky-ness. I got a report of time-outs for my son today, and thought about how to handle unsatisfactory performance in school with my children. I feel sadness on behalf of all of you, but I'm sending a hopeful "We'll see." out to you! Hugs!

courtney said...

Great post, and you made me cry too! But your boy is a genius in so many ways (ummm...what other 2nd grader knows so much about bugs, and plant life, and biology??? I bet he knows more than me!)!!! He's going to shine as a leader. Not only that, but your analogy is perfect for this situation and I have no doubt in a few months, you'll be pleased with the decision.

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The Thirty-Something Bride said...

Oh, Cousin! I'm sorry you're sad. I'm pissed for you that the school didn't communicate this to the families. Seems like that would be VERY important.

I don't know if you know this or not, but I was moved from a 1st grade class to a 1st/2nd split. They did this about 3 weeks after school had already started!

I hated it. I was miserable. All the 2nd graders thought I was a baby. There were only 2 of us in the class and it even seemed like the teacher was pissed we were there. I mean, I could write, but not well AND I was left handed. The teacher had NO IDEA how to teach a left handed kid how to write in cursive. Looking back, I know I didn't have the personal developmental skills I needed to be in that class, "gifted" or not. It's not always about your academic ability, which you know. AND, I didn't even get to go to the same playground as the 1st graders. Blessedly another Marine kid who was a year older than me was on that playground and we were friends, so I got through it - barely.

I think a lot of the comments here are good ones. The Boy will be able to excel and lead. Other children will look up to him. Since he is tiny, perhaps this will be an image booster for him (not that he needs it, but it could be something that happens).

Love you!

The Thirty-Something Bride said...

OK, just read my comment and I think I wrote it poorly. I don't think The Boy will be miserable in his split class. I was miserable because I was moved UP. I think if he is somewhere where he can excel and lead and grow beyond his peers, that he will be happy. And that will make ou happy.

TKW said...

I cried a little bit just reading this. I know I'd feel the way you do--completely ambivalent.

However, I do know that, as an educator, you can appreciate how much your little guy is going to grow, confidence-wise, by mentoring the younger students. Reading can be taught. Confidence? That's something much harder won. ((you))

Ink said...

I swear yesterday I sent hugs via comment form.

Well, all there is to do is to send more.


Good Enough Woman said...

Amstr, Your comments are very reassuring! Last year *was* hard for the Boy b/c he knew some kids were far ahead in their reading . . .

Cathy, One of my colleagues also mentioned the independent worker thing, and thinking of it that way, for me, is encouraging! THank you!

jc, Thank you so much for telling me your mom's and your own experience. I'm really hoping it turns out to be a confidence builder.

CT, I might talk to the school at some point once things settle down, just so I feel more informed about the decision. But I'm not feeling too riled up about it. Not sure Hubby could say the same. Mostly, at this point, I'm worried about his connection to the other second graders--whether or not he'll be able to maintain it.

Fie, So sorry for the shake up that Eldest has to go through! I hope he makes some good friends quickly at his new school.

LKL, I *do* think the school could do a better job of letting families know that split classes are a possibility to be expected. Fo sho!

Steel, Thanks for the hug and the "we'll see" vibe! And good luck with your Boy!

Courtney, I know, right? And, yes, I'm hoping it all works out for the best. At this point, I'm mostly worried (as I said above) about his ability to connect with the other members of his second grade community.

TSB, I totally understood your point in the first comment. No worries. I do hope he'll have a chance to shine in this setting. And if he's happy, I'm happy. Absolutely!

TKW, You make a great point. My little guy LOVES to teach people things. Loves it. Maybe this will be good. And confidence is definitely what he needs.

Ink, Thank yooouuuuuuuu!

--ginger. said...

GEW--I think you're deeply smart in all the right ways.