He’s A Great Kid

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Oh, First Grade. You are not what we expected.

Kindergarten went so well. Eddie loved his teacher, his classmates, and the learning he was doing. Granted, he claimed his favorite part of the day was “free choice,” but who can blame a kid for loving to play?

First Grade, we were so excited for you! We went Back to School Shopping with a LIST this year. We bought dry erase makers and crayons and a pencil box! We got a new backpack! And best of all? Eddie was assigned a DESK rather than a table! The excitement was out of control.

Yes, Eddie is the youngest in the class; he just turned six this summer. Yes, he is a boy; boys are notorious for being late social bloomers. And YES, he is academically ahead; the kid has been reading since he was four.  But we really didn’t anticipate any problems with any of these.

On meet the teacher night, we saw his teacher would be using a behavior chart like ours: everyone starts out in green and then can move up or down according the behavioral choices they make. Eddie was already used to this since we do it at home.

We had no idea this chart would give Eddie–and his mom–so much anxiety.

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During the second week of school, I got a concerned email from his teacher that Eddie is having a hard time with sitting still, staying quiet, and paying attention. Part of me was like, “well yeah. He’s a six-year old boy.” I mean, for him, school had “play breaks”. But First Grade, you don’t have toys in your classroom, you don’t offer “free choice”, and you have one less recess break than Kindergarten did. My active six-year old is hurting a little for “silly time”.

I figured we could talk to Eddie and all would be well, but the following week he was apparently as chatty and social as ever. Mrs. D decided to start sending home a calendar. She would color the day with the coordinating color that Eddie earned: blue (outstanding), green (good), yellow (warning), or orange (sit in the hall and conference with an adult). When he came home with a yellow day he cried. Luckily, Mrs. D called and explained that really, he is green all morning. He drops to yellow in the afternoon.

Suddenly all of our talks about school centered around that damn color chart. The first thing out of my sweet boy’s mouth was his color.

Two emails from his teacher, and a few days of coming home orange and we have a boy who identifies you, First Grade, as being all about whether or not he talks too much in one day.

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But that is thing: his being social is one tiny part of who he is as a first grader.

He’s also a leader who loves having a classroom job each week.

He loves to help lead morning stretches and pass back papers and do anything anyone might ask of him.

He is a good friend who asks his seat partner if she is feeling Ok, and keeps her secret when she wets her pants.

He is quick as a whip at math, reads ahead of “grade level”, writes wonderful stories, and gets very excited about science.

He is a dynamo on the computer and enjoys figuring out new games.

He is kind and helpful to kids who are different than he is, and he never ever laughs at those with disabilities.

He stands up for kids who can’t stand up for themselves.

He loves to sing and dance and make noise when he is very happy.

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In short, he is a great kid.

After talking about all of these things with Cortney and with my therapist, we have decided, First Grade, that our Eddie is more than just a green or yellow or orange. He is awesome. That behavior color is something he needs to work on, yes. But he is MORE than that. He will get it in time because he is a bright kid.

In the meantime, we will remind him to make good choices, but we will also talk about all the other things that you are, First Grade.

Because we don’t want a color on a chart to create anxiety and hatred for school. We want it to be a challenge and learning experience just like the rest of school should be.

Photos by TMV Photography

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. http://Katie says

    I myself was very chatty in first grade, mostly when we lined up. My teacher would constantly talk to my parents about it, but it was just something I had to work through, and honestly, I became a shy and very quiet person. My stepson also got a lot of notes and conversations sent home in first grade about his being fidgety in his seat that the teacher was talking about ADD in October! This year he’s in second grade and having no issues paying attention. My point being that I feel, like you, that first grade is a transition for children after years of being allowed ample time to play. I wonder what the teacher was hoping you’d do at home with the chart. In a sense, the color indicates what happened at school, and I personally feel that it’s up to the teacher to handle it and not extend the punishment to home when you’re not even clear on why he received a certain color. Also … It’s October! Give the kid a few months to adjust before you start sending home calendars and having big issues, lady.

  2. This made me sad on a few levels. One is that, why is it that after the learning and fun of kindergarten, First grade is so much more structured that kids have a hard time adjusting. My nephew is in 2nd grade and he is struggling with a lot of the same things that Eddie is and it just seems that we reach a point with first and second grade that the fun isn’t there for the kids and they don’t get the silly time that they need. It’s so much to expect kids that are used to free play and learning to have to sit at a desk all day. And you are right he is so much more than a color chart.
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  3. Yes.
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  4. For us, the transition from first to second has been hard. It sounds like my daughter is similar to Eddie in that she started school young but is in 90+ percentile in both reading and math. She wiggles and gets too involved in what classmates are doing and forgets what you’ve asked her to do about .5 seconds after you’ve asked her to do it. But she also loves to help those who need it. Her teacher sits her next to the kids who need a little push or a friend. She’s meet her AR reading goal 250% and has discovered a love for books. She is the best big sister you’ll ever see and loves being involved in the Kids’ Worship ministry at church.

    I will admit I struggled just as much as she did. I wondered if we’d made a mistake starting her in Kindergarten when we did.

    Thank you for a reminder that those behavior reports are just a small sliver of who she is.
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  5. http://Crystal says

    I spend a ridiculous amount of time in 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade classes. My twins are first graders this year. Eddie sounds like the majority of first grade boys, especially the higher ones. I would think the teacher would be happier to have a social, squirrelly, but kind kid than the ones I’ve met that are loud, rambunctious and will randomly lash out at classmates. He sounds like the boys that have a special place in my heart in my oldest daughter’s class.

    He’s social. My youngest twin is too. She burst into tears last month when she got her name on the board. 1st grade is tough, yo. It’s such a difference from kinder.

  6. I agree with you. I wish that teachers had more time to work play or free time into the day. I think it would be good for the kids and teachers. Little kids aren’t made to sit still all day. Heck, I can’t do that and I’m an adult.
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  7. I feel for you and Eddie. I think too much expectations are placed on kids, regardless of kids. First grade is a transition year, in my opinion, and it should be a gentle balance between expecting a kid to sit still and not talk for half the day, and allowing him to be who he is.

    Luckily, Eddie has YOU! Hugs, my friend.
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  8. I’m kind of terrified of sending my kid to kindergarten next year. She’s in her second year of play based nature preschool. How sitting in a chair and academics TECHNOLOGY IS AMAAAAZING kindergarten is going to go is slightly terrifying. I may have to bite my tongue a gazillion times over how in appropriate it all is to begin with ahhhh.
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  9. http://Monique%20S. says

    I appreciate you writing about this. I see signs my oldest will have some anxiety issues. I hope you can overcome this with Eddie.

  10. When school boils down to anxiety about a color or a reading log or a standardized test or a mean kid on the bus, it’s so hard. Lucky Eddie has a mom like you to point out all the other things that he is doing right during the day. All those great things that he is will make him the kind of student that every teacher will love to have around.
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  11. I think being a teacher makes having school-aged children a unique challenge.
    You see things from both sides and WANT to root for both parties, right?

    I hated to think a teacher wasn’t working as hard as I imagined I would; and the times when we had classes that ‘weren’t a good fit’ for my kids (okay, truth? it was almost always my son) were difficult for me in a way that my non-teaching friends couldn’t understand.

    That said, it sounds like this teacher might not be the BEST fit for Eddie. Not that she isn’t great and doesn’t work well for other students, but man. Why so obsessed with colors, lady?

    I’m rambling now. But I will tell you this: in first grade, Jack’s teacher thought he had ADD and asked that he be tested because he was so talkative, so inclined to speak out, so fidgety and unable to concentrate for long periods of time. I asked the pediatrician who scoffed immediately.

    He said, Jack’s does not have any diagnosable issue. He is super-smart and a little bored.
    First grade was FINE and Jack was FINE and I was FINE but it wasn’t wonderful.

    The next year, his teacher “got” him.
    It was wonderful.