Today was the first parent teacher conference of the year with Riley's 2nd grade teacher. *deep sigh* On some points, we completely agree. Actually, on most points, we completely agree. The trouble is, what happens now?
Riley is a good student. She's not the best, she's not the worst, but she's good. She gives me plenty of reasons to be proud of her. Of course, there's always room for improvement.
Problem 1) Disorganization. I've lost count of the times she's forgotten to bring homework all the way home. She's left papers in the car that need to go to school with her. She once even left her whole backpack! I do my best to nag appropriately: Put it in your backpack. Do you have everything? Where's your jacket? Where's your lunch box? However, I'm not there with her at the end of the day. I'm not there when she gets picked up by her after-school program. I'm only there in the morning, and in the evening. And even then, well, any mother knows how it goes! Sometimes, you just miss it.
The teacher (I'll call her Ms. R) said that there will start being more consequences for not having homework completed. She'll start getting red tickets, which can affect their grades. Hopefully, this will be more of an incentive to Riley to take on the responsibility.
Problem 2) Writing. This one's two-fold. One is, she rushes through her work, not doing it as neatly as possible (or, conversely, erases and tries again so many times the paper looks like one of those old carbon copies where you can see every imprint). Ms. R said Riley doesn't seem to enjoy writing, which I find surprising because at home, she writes all the time!
The second fold is the more troublesome. Ms. R was showing me an example of a test where Riley hadn't followed the directions. As far as I could tell, she had. Ms. R finally acquiesced that the directions were confusing (she'd thought they meant the same thing that Riley and I thought), and that she was incredibly unhappy with the program. She gave me the name of the program (Lucy Calkins Writing Program - anyone familiar with this?) so tonight I've begun a rudimentary search for resource materials on this.
I stopped my so-far fruitless search to blog instead! Because here's the thing: where are the parent resources?!? I've heard over and over (and, yes, over) again from LAUSD that parents need to be involved. Yet, when I asked Ms. R if there were any resources on the Internet that Riley and I could use to help her understand this program, I got a blank look. Followed by "oh, that's a good idea!" Okay, I know the internet is still fairly new. I know that she's been teaching longer than the internet has been around. Yet, shouldn't this revolutionary program at least be in touch with the times? Shouldn't there be some way that I can help my daughter with this without getting a teaching credential?
Problem 3: Math. Specifically, number sense, statistics, data analysis, and probability. And yes, you read it right. My daughter is in the 2nd grade. She actually does really well on her in-class tests (she's gotten 100% on 3 out of 4) - it's just the standardized tests that bring her down to an 84% average.
Someone from KIPP described exactly why I hate tests: they're designed to trick students. You've got a 1 in 4 chance of getting it wrong, and the other 3 answers are exactly the kind of mistakes that students are prone to make. Well, isn't that nice? Isn't that encouragement for students to love learning?
But I know that she's got to know that oh-so-lovely standardized 'language.' She's got to learn how to decipher all the tricks they use to still get that right answer. Now, on this, there is some help available. So one of my homework assignments is going onto our State Education website and pulling some of that stuff to go over with her.
Ms. R did agree with me philosophically. And I had a realization that everything that Riley's doing less well in are the things that Ms. R herself doesn't like. I can accept that. However, now I have to pick up the slack and do these things that I don't like, either! "Parent involvement" seems to mean to home school - even when you're sending your kids to school. Fine. Last year, I fought it tooth and nail. This year, I'm saying, fine. I'll do it.
Riley and I sat down tonight and went through her report card together. We talked about these areas where she needs improvement (oh, getting distracted was another problem area - hmmm, wonder where she gets that from?!?), and while I set a goal that we should see all 3's on the next report card, Riley wants to get all 4's. I told her we'll make that the goal for the final report card.
When we went through the comments, Riley started to get very...inward. She does this "turtle-like" impression where she just wants to shut down completely. That was the moment when I was most frustrated with Ms. R. All in all, Riley's a good student. At least one of the comments should have been positive. She got mostly 3's and some 2's. The girl deserves a little praise - I mean, her fluency scores are well past benchmark! So I had to pick up the slack there as well, tell her how proud I am of her, what a good job she's doing. Mind you, not that I wouldn't have said that anyway. But it doesn't seem too much to ask that a little descriptive praise could've come from her teacher, too!
I guess I need to count my blessings, too. After all, I'm only going through this with one of my children now instead of both of them. Sylvia and her teachers and I are in communication as much as we need to be. I can email, call, check the parent website whenever I want. Sylvia can go to tutoring as much as she wants. I'm already seeing big improvements with her.
Just two and a half more years, and Riley gets to go to KIPP, too. This too shall pass.