Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Head of the Class

Sorry for the lack of, er, postage. Things have been a little busy since last week.

The day after the class lists were posted, Mr. Spy and I met with AJ's classroom teacher, Mrs. F, and Mrs. C, the gifted teacher. The principal, who had set up the meeting for us, was unable, at the last minute to be there. But much was accomplished.

Mr. Spy and I were very impressed with the preparation Mrs. F. had already done. She had contacted AJ's teacher from last year to find out what had been done and what had worked. And she came into the meeting with a list of questions for us -- good questions. In turn, she seemed to really appreciate the information we had brought for her. I am always nervous about how such things will be received -- will a teacher see it as helpful, which is how it is intended? Or will she see it as meddling? Which, let's be honest, it is a little bit. Mrs. C. was able to talk a bit about how she'd pulled together materials for last year, and we were able to ask for her help in ordering readers for AJ which, since the school only goes up to 4th grade, it did not previously own.

One of the things we were pleased to hear is that Mrs. F. already has some systems in place for dealing with kids working above and below the average. This week homework began and we are starting to see how they work. AJ took the week's spelling pretest with the rest of the class and, as expected, aced it. This meant he got the challenge words for the week, which were drawn from their current science unit on geology (more on the new science curriculum another day -- all good). The words were more challenging than I had expected and AJ is excited about them:

investigating
tuff
basalt
scoria
boulders
cobblestones
erosion
geologists
granite
obsidian
pebbles
sandstone
diamond
concrete
glacier
mica


In addition to learning the spelling words, he has several activities to do with them for homework. On Mondays, the new list for the week comes home and for homework he has to write five sentences using as many of the words as possible. Tuesday and Wednesday nights he has to do an activity that he chooses from a list. This week he chose to make a game (he figured out a game with flashcards for two players) and a crossword puzzle, for which he is allowed to use computer software. If anyone has any software/websites for crossword creation to recommend (Mac compatible), I'd love to hear them!

The reading program has three components with three different sets of books. There is the guided reading, which happens in school in small groups with a graded reading series (Gates-McGintie). Thanks to Mrs. F. and Mrs. C., AJ's school now has more of the series -- he had finished what they had early last school year. There is independent reading at home, for which he chooses his own books that he reads daily and then writes a short sentence or two in his reading log. Each month's log has a different question to answer. This month's is "What was your favorite part?" The third component is another in-school reading session called "Reading Workshop." It is not yet clear to me what this entails, but the students get to pick their own books, either by bringing them from home (which has been recommended for AJ) or choosing one from the classroom library.

They are still taking math assessment testing, so we will hear more about that soon. We received an email from AJ's teacher on Monday saying that she will get back to us when she's done with the assessments to talk about goals for AJ for the year -- exactly what we wanted.

In general, it sounds like I'll be less involved in the devising of materials than I was last year, which is great. The teacher seems fully capable and interested in doing it herself.

Someone asked me this morning if AJ wouldn't do better in a Montessori school or some other educational situation with more flexibility than a public school. I said that maybe, yes, if he were at a different public school. But this school is working hard to help us and is learning from the situation -- I thought their willingness to order new series of books was an excellent sign, because it shows they're trying to prepare for other students too, which is the best case scenario. It's why I want to keep working with the public schools. And AJ is currently getting an education tailor-made for his abilities. I'm not sure we could do better than that anywhere else. The only additional thing I would wish for is foreign language instruction. But that we'll try on our own. The year is definitely off to a promising start.

2 comments:

Hannah said...

Have you ever thought about getting involved with the school's PTA? (I know, in your spare time, right?) It seems in my area it's always the PTA to make extra things like foreign language happen. When we had our kids in the crappy school district, we actually had to raise money for a part-time science teacher. Sad, huh?

harriet M. Welsch said...

Hannah, I have thought about it, but for the moment, I'm steering clear, mainly because the PTA, while technically open to anyone, really isn't. I am, however, waiting for an opening on the curriculum committee, which I think would be a better place. And AJ's school does offer Spanish as a once-a-week extra-curricular. It's not a great program, but it's better than nothing. Raising money for a science teacher? Yikes.