The Official First Day of School

Overall, Em’s first day of school went well, except for one concern, and it is a big one. At least for me.

Em has two Language Arts teachers, Ms. L, who is her homeroom teacher, and Mrs. W. As I understand it, one teacher handles reading (Mrs. W) and the other (Ms. L) writing, although I am unsure on this and will be getting clarification later.

Em had a good connection with each of her teachers, except for Mrs. W. It started off with a practice of getting up from their seats without making scraping noises. She had them practice and Em thought she had done well, but Mrs. W singled her out for special attention.

This unnerved Em, but the issue later in the day was the one I took exception to.

If Em is reporting it correctly, Mrs. W said, “Well over here,” she gestured to a group at the back of the room, “we have our excellent readers, mmhm.” Then she waved her hands at another area, “And over here we have our good readers, mmhmm. And over here we have our poor readers.” And with that last designation, she turned to Emily’s table and just looked at her and the other children seated there.

Mrs. W is the room we were in during “meet your teacher” night when the principal came in and asked Em to step out of the room and then said, “Could you give us an idea of where Emily stands academically?”

I think he was half-convinced that she could not read. I gave an honest assessment as I saw it, “I think you will find her at grade level or above for reading, a little behind with spelling although I do have rather high standards, and at grade level or slightly below for math.”

He asked if we could have her read a paragraph or two to assess her reading and turned to Mrs. W, “Would you mind grabbing something for her to read?”

Mrs. W returned with a first-grade reader. I raised my eyebrows at that, but let the short test continue. Em came in, read the paragraph with little hesitation and the principal looked rather relieved. “She will do fine,” he said.

But now I am wondering what exactly that meant. Also, Mrs. W has had no other examples of Em’s reading skills since she has not heard her read aloud beyond that one small example.

So…

I’ve got a message in to Ms. L to better understand exactly what each teacher handles. I have also discussed with Em the idea that there may be preconceived notions at play here. After all, there are plenty of myths associated with homeschoolers. That they are behind academically can be one of them. I suggested to her that we help change Mrs. W’s mind about that.

“I think we need to help her understand how broad your vocabulary is, and that you are continuing to learn each day at home as well as school,” I said. “So why don’t I share the Word of the Day email I get with you each morning? We can talk about the definition and use it in a sentence. Perhaps if she sees you understand bigger words that might help.”

After I understand better the two teachers’ roles, I plan on reaching out to the principal and asking for a basic assessment/placement test. That way we have a clear understanding of where she is grade level-wise and I will take steps at home to help augment her learning in school so that her understanding rises to a level that is in line with grade expectations or better.

And finally, if the problems with Mrs. W continue, I will not tolerate my child being made to feel insufficient or stupid in anyone’s class. I will take the step of insisting she attend Mrs. L’s classes only OR remove her from this school.

One thing is for sure, I’m not going to repeat the mistake I made with Danielle’s education – that of allowing any school, principal, counselor or teacher to run slip-shod over me or my child in order to fulfill their own script of how education should be.

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