Monday, June 25, 2007

Bad May, Part Dux: First, The Background

Daughter number three (JG) is a spit-fire. She is graciously particular - most of the time (at age two, for example, she would say, "That's not my favorite" when any mushy or otherwise non-pretty looking food was placed on her plate, and then would refused to eat.) She has a stubborn streak and is more tenacious than anyone I know or have ever met. For example, when she turned four, I once sent her to bed without supper because she would not eat what was served her. By lunchtime the next day, she was content to just keep on not eating because nothing I served for breakfast or lunch was "her favorite." She could have kept right on fasting through dinner and breakfast the next day, too, but by dinnertime and no eating - none - for 24 hours, I figured out what was her favorite and served that. And one of her more endearing qualities is that she is a dawdler and a silly-heart (yes, you Uncle Buck fans - I borrowed that phrasing). JG is an extroverted, hands-on kind of girl that enjoys making people laugh. Clearly (except for being and extrovert), this apple of my eye didn't fall far from the tree.

So I wasn't surprised that when we moved from Oregon to Austin last December that this major move might be met with some resistance. Not only would JG's new school require that she would have to wake up, eat, and be out the door by 7:35 (thank God we live right behind the school), but she would also have to attend school all day long rather than the half day required at her previous school. Don't misunderstand - JG is not the kind of kid needs to take a nap half way through the day. On the contrary, I had to stop making her take a nap at age 3 so that we could all get to sleep before midnight/1 AM. No joke. The problem was that more "sitting" would be required of her than ever before.

And, a sitting all day in a chair kind of girl JG is not.

It was no surprise to me that JG complained of hating school every day for the first month. Where she played all day and would easily, charmingly, and wordlessly command attention at her other school, she was now being forced to sit and take daily quizzes on letter sound recognition (teacher says a sound, and students write the upper and lower case letter; teacher says a letter, and students say all of the possible sounds that letter makes). Also, she now had to do homework - worksheets and flashcards that took us probably 20-30 minutes to complete.

By week two, the teacher was calling us in for a meeting. I knew it couldn't be a good sign when the teacher asked me, more than once in this 30 minute conversation, whether or not JG was in pre-school or kindergarten at her last school. By the end of the conversation, the teacher pretty much spelled out to us that she would do her darnedest to bring JG up to speed (all of her students were reading by this time, and JG was a whole semester behind), but the reality of the matter was that enough progress may not be made by the end of the year.

As the semester progressed, so did JG. Although resistant at times because she had to skip so much free choice time in order to be hard line tutored in her ABCs, JG seemed to be getting the hang of things. In fact, because she was labeled by the school as "at risk," she had to meet with the reading specialist four days a week - all because she was not a fluent reader as a kindergartner. Also, we met with the teacher periodically in order to be kept up to speed. But by spring break, I began to notice that JG had had enough; every day, she complained that school was boring. Sure, she liked PE and lunch, but the rest of it was "boring teaching stuff."

I began to notice, too, that the teacher was growing less and less patient with my little girl's quirky behavior. At first, JG confessed that she had a time out here and there. Then it was daily. Then the notes started coming home, followed by phone calls from the teacher. The biggest offense? JG was talking. Talking in line, talking in the hallway, talking during circle time. The girl likes to talk, what can I say? (And if you noticed the length of any of my entries lately, you can clearly see where she gets this trait.)

Side note: she is in kindergarten. Kin-der-garten! Is it really necessary to chain a kid to her desk and slap the proverbial duct tape on her mouth before she is promoted to one of the grades that are numbered?! (Of course I am speaking metaphorically here.) Although there was that one little time that JG kissed a boy (see what I'm dealing with here!). I took a hard line on that one: "no kissing until you are 25!" JG just giggled at me, but agreed to never do that again at school.

In any event, I dropped by the school more and more (visited JG at lunch, went to special events such as "Water Day," etc.) in order to witness the teacher's interaction with JG for myself. Frankly, what I saw was a fantastic teacher that just didn't have any patience with my daughter. If JG had a question, she was answered with slight annoyance. If my daughter tapped on her teacher to get her attention, she was simply ignored. I even had the opportunity to witness a scolding, and the teacher reponded with exhasperation to my daughter (nevertheless, I did not intervene). Trust me - I live with this daughter 24/7, so I sympathize with this exasperation. Still, I was begining to wonder if some of the behavior issues in class stemmed from a personality conflict with the teacher rather than actual behavioral problems.

Then came "The Meeting." And you'll just have to read more about that later.


Mimi said...

I know, I am opinionated.

I am very sure this is a better way. Even if your daughter has learned to conform by now.

bluesugarpoet said...

It's ironic that you've mentioned this because my first inclination after "the meeting" (which I will write about tonight) was that JG would fare better in a school that allows her to explore learning differently than what traditional schools require. It's still an option, although I have heard that this type of school is pretty strict on the talking issue (such as during lunch), and that would be the death of my little flower.

PS She made me "bee juice" today that she bought at "Jane's Market." Her "little brother" (the dog?) wouldn't try it, she said, because bee juice looks disgusting. "But he didn't know what he was missing out on because bee juice is delicious."