Sunday, October 24, 2010

PT Conferences

The much awaited Parent Teacher conferences finally arrived.  I was not really looking forward to it and have been having lots of anxiety about Emma’s school experience this year.  Here’s the very long winded review of the whole ordeal.  If you want the basics….she’ll stay in school there…no homeschooling and scroll all the way to the end of the post to read Matt’s response.  :)

(For background: Emma started the year with Mrs. B. but with the first grade class growing to 43 students the first week they split the class after only one week of school.  They moved a 6th grade teacher Mr. D down to 1st grade. Wow.  Adjustment.  Emma ended up in his class.  She loves him.  She thinks he is the funniest teacher ever. 

After 3 weeks in his class NOTHING had come home from school.  No communication.  No homework.  No papers.  No busy work.  NOOOOthing.  Finally in late Sept he held an “open house”  for parents to come in to meet him.  I went.  I had tooons of question.  One being the list of 1000 words she came home with.  Second being spelling that she was upset by, claimed she was no good at and that she didn’t win the spelling bee and wasn’t ready for the test.  Yet I had received no info on words to be studying with her.  In the open house he basically said they are studying the sight/attack words – the list of 1000 and working on Geography skills and proud the kids can make an excel spreadsheet and doing money for math. 

Yes Emma can name the continents.  She can explain the continental drift theory.  But mentions nothing of reading, writing, letters, sounds, numbers, math.  Nada.  He said he had been busy assessing students and is having students make skills sheets listing the 1st grade skills that will serve as the children’s list of skills to work on and complete.  So I left the open house then aware of the 25 words PER WEEK that she was to study for spelling and the comfort of knowing a skill sheet would soon be made and brought home to give me a clue.)

So I go to conferences excited to see a binder Emma spoke of with her work in it.  I asked if it was work she had completed and the teacher graded- she said yes.  Since it had been a month since the open house I expected to also see a completed skills sheet to start working on. 

We go to NO binder and NO skills sheet.  A listing of wonderful grades to make any parent proud with no examples of work.  No graded papers.  No visible assessments. Rave reviews of her work and behavior. 

I ask about math.  Still doing money? He then admits he’s done much less math with the kids than he should.

I ask about the now list of 50 spelling words she supposed to be studying.  I explain all the ways we are studying with her (home tests,, typing or writing words 3xs each, etc) however with NO spelling tests coming home I have NO idea how she is doing, if what we are doing at home is helping her?!?!?!??! He says “Oh, i guess parents are working with the kids and I should maybe send the tests home.” REALLLY!!??

I know her handwriting is poor (she gets it from her daddy :) ).  He says they haven’t done a lot on that and wants to teach the kids how to write their letters like an art form.  He showed us how to chisel a pencil by scribbling it thus the lead slanted and can make beautiful letters. Wow. Thanks.

I asked since writing was her lowest grade (B) if I should be dictating sentences for her to write.  Write sentences about a story etc.  What does she need to improve on? He said sure, but they won’t focus a lot on writing until the kids can make their letters perfectly.  Which if you recall above they haven’t started doing yet!!

It boils down to he and I have different, or varying, well how about POLAR OPPOSITE teaching styles and I am trrrrying hard to respect his said “style”. How are we different?

He: is anti phonics and set on the kids memorized his list of 1000 words. Me: sight words are great and very important, but for decoding phonics and learning phonograms is very helpful.

He: is very laid back in his class environment.  It’s a non-primary feeling classroom.  The kids are allowed to sit with who ever, where ever and I mean where ever as in sit on the table, on chairs on the floor and have the choice whether to wear their shoes and sometimes even take off their socks.  I witnessed his class next to Mrs. B’s class the other day.  Her class walking in line on the sidewalk.  His alllll over the sidewalk, lawn, some in front of him some behind. Chaos. Me: opposite of all listed above. Walk in line.  Sit in your chair (or rug during whole group), socks and shoes on as a safety issue.  First graders are not ready to make the decision on who it is best for them to sit by to facilitate the best learning environment.

He: Kids test kids.  The “smarter” kids that are on higher word lists test the lower kids.  Me: I am the teacher and should administer assessments for 1st graders!!How accurate is an assessment of a 1st grader given by a 1st grader? This ideal of his has created Emma a sense of “I’m not good at ____.” and “I’m not as smart as____”.

He: uses no curriculum.  There is no math “book” or work book. No apparent reading series. No handwriting workbook. Is this an AZ thing or a Mr. D thing? I’m not sure. He does seem to base the skills he’s “doing” off the “big book” from the district.  The 1st grade Outcomes I assume. Me: as a school they need curriculum so the 1st grade students receive the same content.  Presented in different ways perhaps b/c of varying teaching styles, but similar skills at least.

He: refuses to teach whole group lessons.  All things are taught through centers and I guess what you’d call self discovery.  He sees no sense in teaching to the whole group b/c you are over some kids heads and others are bored b/c they already know it. Me: I agree with a whole group lesson it’s hit and miss….but you start with whole group and then supplement for the higher/lower children.  I’m not convinced a 1st grader has the focus/attention to self teach allll day long.  I have a feeling that is why Emma speaks a lot about playing “library” each day.

I feel part of the reason we receive no communication on what they are working on is b/c he really doesn’t know from day to day.  Word lists are pretty consistent, spelling sometimes, little math by his own admission.  Lots of geography, but let’s be honest the continents are something Emma could do now or in 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade once she’s learned to read, do basic math, write sentences, etc. Right?

So to conclude all this rambling I have to be honest and perhaps put my tail between my legs.  Saturday AM Emma picks up a book, sits down and reads the entire book to me.  It was not a repetitive rhyming book or even a book we’ve ready often at all.  So, maybe this guy knows something after all?

We are very blessed that Emma is a wonderful student.  She adapts well to her environment.  Has always received rave reviews with her attitude & behavior at school.  Never a problem even once.  To that I am grateful.  I know next year if she were to get a very structured teacher she would simply adapt to that expectation.  However, I’m not sure all her other classmates can do the same. 

So we will hang in there.  Hope to see spelling tests come home.  Work on writing and keep drilling on those sight words.  We are on list 200-299…out of 1000. Ugh.

Oh and BTW Matt’s summary “Yea.  He’s a bit hippy for me.” Six words and one contraction to my thousand(s) words explanation. :)


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