Kindred Spirits

You might be a kindergarten teacher like me. Or a teacher of another grade. 

We are kindred spirits.

You might have a small class. 15 – 18 students. Or you may have 21 kids like I do. Or 24 like my neighbor. Or more. 

We are kindred spirits.

Your kids may have PE a couple of times a week, or not at all, or every day like mine.

We are kindred spirits.

You may have to give your kids periodic standardized tests. Or you may be able to write your own assessments. You may have to do lots of these assessments online or on an iPad or by pencil and paper. You might be able to observe your kids and use anecdotal notes to help determine what to teach next and how to teach it.

We are kindred spirits. 

All your kids may have come to you knowing English as their first and only language. Some of your kids may speak another language at home and English at school. Maybe most of your students never heard much English at all before starting school and they might not be allowed to speak it at home once they start learning. 

We are kindred spirits.

Your school might be in an affluent area. Your school might be in a high-poverty, urban or rural area. Your school might have a mix of students from many different levels of affluence or poverty.

We are kindred spirits.

You may have to follow a strictly mandated version of a Common Core-aligned curriculum. You may be free to teach what you know to be the best curriculum for your students. 

We are kindred spirits.

Your administrators may be sympathetic or they may have no clue what is best for your group of learners. 

We are kindred spirits. 

In this volatile time, when public schools are under fire, I want all kindred spirits – all teachers, all support staff, all admins, all who care about kids – to be kind to each other. KINDred spirits.

It does us no good to one-up each other. 

“Oh, that doesn’t affect me at MY school!” 

“You don’t have any idea what it’s like to teach these kids.”

“The Common Core is EASY for MY kids.”

“This is not developmentally-appropriate.”

“My room mothers take care of EVERYTHING for me!”

“What’s a room mother?”

“I never have to buy a thing for my class. They come to school ready to learn.”

“My husband wants to know why I spend so much of our money on my school kids.”

School is not a contest. Contrary to what the government tells us, it’s not a race. 

And instead of tripping each other on the way to the finish line, if there is a finish line, why can’t we kindred spirits lift each other up. 

We are not the lucky and the unlucky ones. 

We are one. 

We are kindred spirits. 

 

 

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Temper Tantrum

You teachers. You’re never satisfied. You took the job knowing the pay was low. So why are you complaining about teacher pay. You’re a glorified babysitter. All you do is play all day. You work 7-3 and you get weekends and summers off. You’ve got it better than most of us! School is easy. Real work is hard. And all you do is complain.

What do you really want?

What do I want? 

Autonomy.

I would give up smaller class size for autonomy.

Okay, that isn’t completely true because I REALLY believe that smaller class size is the critical missing piece in our school. Perhaps in every school. I do want a smaller class. Max it out at 18. MAX.

But since that will never happen, I want to determine my own fate.

I want to research best practices. I want to try new things. I want to try things that haven’t been researched. I want to try old things. I want to do action research of my own. I want to succeed. I want to fail and try again and again and again.

I want administration and the district office and the state department of public instruction and the federal government to trust me. I want them to acknowledge that I know my kids and child development better than they do.

I want to be consulted before a new policy is presented to me as mandatory.

I want my opinion to matter.

I want my kids’ needs to come before the whims of a superintendent or a curriculum specialist.

I want to be the master of my domain.

I want to shut my door and teach.

I want to collaborate with my team.

I want to spend teacher workdays preparing great lessons.

I want to spend weekends cleaning the closet in my room.

I want a key to my building.

I want legitimate websites to not be blocked.

Did you notice that I don’t want tangible stuff? (Except the key).

Picture me stamping my foot like a fractious toddler.

I want. I want. I WANT!


danger ahead

This week, I am tasked with sending letters to the parents of 18 of my 21 kindergarteners to inform them that their children are having difficulty with reading. The dreaded “in danger of retention” letters.

Any child who has not performed according to the lofty goals of the mClass (Amplify) testing system is considered to be “demonstrating difficulty with reading development, not reading at grade level and/or considered for grade retention,” and thereby, must be informed of their inadequacies.

Apparently, no one considered the confusion and trauma that the receipt of a letter like this will cause our families. No one gave teachers a chance to advocate for our kids and defend their progress.

The goal, upon which these letters are based, is reading at a level C at the January benchmark.

Only two years ago, levels B or C were goals for the END of kindergarten, but, of course, that was most certainly not “rigorous” enough. The bar was raised in spite of the fact that children do not all develop reading skills according to a schedule.

No one considered that most of the kids in my class do not speak English at home. Some of them don’t have a good grasp of their home language OR English. Many of them came to me not knowing the names of any letters. They did not know the difference between letters and numbers and chicken scratches. They did not know that letters represent sounds. They did not know the difference between words and letters. Spaces between letters and words were extremely confusing.

No one has considered that most of the kids in my class started the year reading at Level AA OR pre-AA. No one considered that all progress is to be celebrated.

No one considered how demoralized 5 and 6 year old students will be to hear that they are not making “adequate progress,” especially because each day, I tell them those same children that they are magnificent, brilliant, dedicated learners who are destined for great things.

Will they ever believe their teacher again?

I have worked hard to help parents to work with their children each night – in ANY language. We have become partners, each trusting the other to do their part to help the kids succeed. I have assured them that their children are magnificent, brilliant, dedicated learners who are destined for great things.

Will they ever believe ANY teacher again?

What will happen if the students are not reading at Level D in June? Will we retain? Hardly likely. We most certainly cannot open up new kinder classes when we are already overcrowded and our new kinders are likely to come in with similar skills to our current kids.

And the dreaded third grade gateway is looming.

As Whoopi once said to Demi…

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If we threaten our kinders when they are unable to perform developmentally inappropriate tasks, we are all in danger.