Tuesday, September 22, 2009

New Day

It is exactly on month into the school year and there has been a sea change in the Spy household. AJ is a different kid this year than he was last year. He goes to school without a fus and comes home from school in a good mood. He almost never forgets his belongings. I haven't had a single note home about behavior. He does his homework willingly and generally with enthusiasm. He doesn't always take the easy way out. He thinks about things and writes about them too. He takes his responsibilities more seriously, not just with school work, but in other areas as well.

What happened?

I'm not entirely sure. Some of it's probably due to maturity. Some of it is definitely due to the challenge program. Even though it's only one afternoon a week, he looks forward to it and it gets him through the stuff that's less interesting. But a lot of it is, I think, the teacher's classroom style.

Yesterday I accompanied AJ's class on a field trip and I was struck by stark differences with similar trips I took with his class last year. I heard many children get praised, but I didn't hear one kid get yelled at for behavior. It's not that they were so much better behaved -- they were just as wound up at the beginning as last year -- but that the teacher was so much more even-tempered. If a child was doing something inappropriate or disruptive, she would walk up to him and bend down to his level, putting her arm around her shoulders and talk quietly to him so that no one else could hear. But she also tolerated a greater range of behavior from her class. She enforced the rules that needed enforcing, but let some things slide if they weren't disrupting others. By the second half of the trip, the class was behaving extremely well. They learned a lot and got to explore not just by listening to someone talk at them, but by touching and feeling and smelling the things they came across.

And the homework! AJ has so much less than last year. Less busywork means he takes greater responsibility for the things he does need to do. I'm still frustrated with his math assignments (there's still a lot of counting of objects going on; most of the assignments to date he could have done in preschool), but I know they won't be this easy for long and I know what to do if they don't get better. In the mean time, they're not bothering AJ yet. He's taking pride in his work and that's worth a lot. Last year he was constantly bringing home assignments with the kinds of mistakes that indicated he hadn't been paying any attention. This year, nothing gets by him. The difference is remarkable, and I can't say I'm unhappy about it.


LSM said...

I'm so glad AJ's teacher this year has such a good handle on positive classroom management. It makes such a difference in so many ways. Is there any chance of working with the GT teacher and the classroom teacher to modify the EDM curriculum so that he works on the same concept as everyone else but at a higher level? I know we've talked about that before, but it works really well for our district.

Harriet said...

Modification of EDM is supposed to happen, but apparently it happens gradually, so the worksheets in the beginning of the year are the same, but we are supposed to be getting different stuff home later. If I'm understanding it correctly, this year the modifications may or may not be from EDM (Every Day Mathematics, for those who are unfamiliar with the acronym), but by next year, when the math enrichment class meets twice a week instead of once like this year, they will be doing an accelerated EDM curriculum. And by the end of the fourth grade year, they will have completed the fifth grade math cycle. Right now, the stuff AJ's getting is way too easy, but I've also seeing his confidence easily falter, so as long as he's not unhappy with the math they're doing in the classroom, I'm letting it slide, because I think it's going to get more challenging pretty soon. The easier assignments seem to be buoying his faith in his own ability to do math. He's always thought of himself as a kid who is great at reading, because that's where he's always gotten the attention. But his math scores are just as high as his reading scores. He needs to let his self-image catch up with his brain.

Also, the data our district has on EDM is really, really impressive. They've only been using it for 5 years, but the increase in math scores and in the number of kids in advanced math since beginning the curriculum are truly startling. I know EDM has been somewhat controversial, but wow. I wish I had the exact numbers to give you, but suffice it to say that it was a huge percentile leap and the number of kids in the advanced program more than doubled.

Anonymous said...

I tried to answer earlier, but it didn't work, but what I wanted to say was, I knew I did not like that teacher last year. Ha.