Monday, November 05, 2007

Teacher Conferences Provide an Opportunity to Ask Where Did I Go Wrong?

In the beginning, the Lord created teachers and made them deal with children for nine months. Parents, meanwhile, only kept them home for three months.

"Lord," a teacher pleaded one night. "Why must teachers have them for the better part of the year?"

God said, "Well, I can't shorten the school year, but I'll give parents an equal burden."

And with a great clap of thunder he created...the parent-teacher conference.

That magical day when you learn that your child not only doesn't know his letters or numbers but also does not grasp the concept of circle time.

Come to find out, Richie, who is in Pre-K, has been talking so much during carpet time, he's been making the other children uncomfortable.

"I think he thinks school is a giant playdate," his teacher said.

Richie has since confirmed that, by the way.

She also showed me a sheet of paper where Richie was to write all the letters he knew. It was completely blank. On the plus side, he knew how to write 1-8 except for 5 and 6.

So that's good, I thought.

"He should know his numbers to 31," his teacher said. Oh.

Acknowledging that I failed Richie in the letters and numbers department, I was determined to make amends. Naturally, by overreacting. First, I went into my room and sobbed. Next, I made a big announcement:

"Okay, no T.V. until everybody in this house knows their letters."

Unfortunately, my boys may not all know their letters, but they do know their mommy. Johnny and Richie exchanged knowing looks. I could just see Johnny calculating how long this was going to last.

One day.

That's how long it lasted. But ever since, my mom and I have been diligently teaching Richie his letters. He knows 10 now: A, B, C, E, F, I, J, R, X and sometimes P. Other times, none at all. I honestly think he might have short term memory loss. Which is my fault. Why wouldn't it be? He's a bright kid. Why couldn't I teach him the ABCs like all the other moms?

Now I'm hustling to teach J.J. his letters so that he won't be behind. As you can imagine, it's extremely difficult, seeing's how he can't talk.

Circle time, on the other hand...I think it's reasonable for a mother to expect her son to master this concept on his own.

Back home, I told him, "You need to sit quietly during circle time. You need to listen to your teacher."

"Are they going to kick me out of school?" he asked very seriously, as though he was contemplating other career avenues. Pick pocketing. Chimney sweeping. Street urchin.

"Of course not," I said. "Because you're going to start paying attention."

"But it's our choice," he said. "We don't have to sit quietly. We can choose to play with friends instead."

I wanted to ask him, "Did it ever seem strange to you that everybody else 'chose' to sit quietly except you?"

But he fell apart. "I'm doing a good job," he said. "I'm being good."

Those were my thoughts exactly when I found out Richie didn't know letters or numbers. I read to the kids every day. I let them have friends over. I take them to the zoo.

And I tried to teach Richie his letters last year, but it wasn't clicking and he wasn't interested and, to be honest, I dropped it. I figured he'd learn them when he was ready.

After all, if any of my kids are going to be good at language arts, it's Richie. He picks up on catchphrases the first time he hears them and incorporates them correctly into his vocabulary. He tells elaborate stories and goes back and changes them to make them funnier.

Unlike Johnny, he dishes about his school day..."So and so said a bad word. She said 'stupid.' I said a bad word, too: farting. But I only said it one time."

He makes astute--and sometimes catty--observations about other people. If this kid isn't going to be a writer then I don't know who is.

Of course, he has to learn his letters first. And so I have to swallow my pride and admit I dropped the ball on this one. Ready or not, he's going to learn his letters this year.

The funny thing is...he appears to be ready. Right now, he is writing his name.

"R-I-C-H-I-E," he says.

"How come you know 'h' now but not when I show you the flashcard?" I ask.

"Because I don't remember it," he says, shrugging.

Well, I guess the letter "h" isn't that important. I 'ardly use it at all in my writing. But we're going to master the other letters ASAP, starting with a, s and p.


Anonymous Ma said...

We'll work on them again tomorrow. I asked what the first letter of the alphabet was. R? No, what is another name for the alphabet? He shrugged. i said 'the abc's', so what's the first letter? R? i think he thinks I mean the first letter of his name. He'll get it, or maybe he'll get put in remedial reading like his grandmother did in 2nd grade!

5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have me laughing and crying...Rose just got her report card...yikes...we have p/t conferences Thursday...yikes...RJ doesn't know his letters but sure knows every coach in the NFL...that should count for day we will look back and smile and wonder why we worried so much..right? there is too much emphasis on letters, PK...they should think it's a giant playdate..they have the rest of their lives to be in school..just ask Luke...he seems to think it's a good idea to be in school his whole life???!!!
we love you!!

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You will always be great mom because you have a sense of humor! That is the only thing that will keep you sane in the years to come!
Love to all!
Chris H

3:57 PM  

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