As kindergarten winds down we have to make plans for first grade. Yesterday, I spent about forty minutes with Olivia’s current teachers, her principal, her speech therapist and the woman who will be her teacher next year.
She’s done pretty well in a typical kindergarten class. She’s reading above grade level but her math skills are below. She’s writing well when she wants to write well.
And therein lies the problem. Olivia can be stubborn. She comes across as a difficult child because she tends to bond with one adult in each setting and then steadfastly refuses to speak to any of the others who might be in the room.
Teachers can’t test a child who won’t respond to them. They can’t possibly report on what she knows if she won’t show them what she knows, what she can do.
So next year she’s going to be an official first grader but she’ll be in a self-contained classroom with one teacher, one aide and three other students.
For Olivia, having a two to one ratio between the students and teachers is a great move. Another positive to this is that she’ll be with a teacher she’s already been seeing every day this past year. The special education teacher will be the one who is in charge of this self-contained classroom. Olivia already talks to this teacher, is comfortable with her and her aide, who again, will be in the classroom next year.
The class will be concentrating on the first grade curriculum at a slightly slower pace. There will be fewer distractions, less noise than that which is typical of a classroom with up to thirty kids and two adults.
All this is great. It really is.
When I told my mom and my husband about this plan, they both thought it sounded like the perfect thing for Olivia.
And yet…why do I feel a little sad for my girl? Is it because I fear she’ll lose out on the social aspect of being in a typical classroom? Maybe. I also worry that if she’s not around her typical peers for more than a few minutes at a time each day, she’ll fall farther and farther behind.
But I also know that first grade is going to lay the academic groundwork for the coming years and if she were placed in a classroom with over twenty kids and two adults, she’d definitely be left in the dust academically.
While she’s held her own academically, being in a typical classroom this year hasn’t done her a lot of favors socially. She still doesn’t talk to her peers, she won’t eat lunch at school with her peers. She won’t participate in small group discussions with her peers.
Academically, she does better one on one with an adult. So for first grade, we’re going to go with something as close to that as we can.
I’m consoling myself and my stupid fragile feelings with the fact that next year for first grade Olivia will join her typical peers for lunch, their ‘specials’ (gym, music, art, and computer classes) and recess. She will be exposed to these kids in social settings but she’ll also be getting the very best academic start she can.
I’m also telling myself that social stuff can come later. She has time to get comfortable with her typical peers. Right now, she doesn’t even seem to want to. But she does want to read, she does love to write. She hates to count but we’re working on that.
For now, I’m happy with the plan in place for first grade. I trust the teacher she’ll be working with. I know this woman wants what I want, for Olivia to do her best, and for her to be confident enough to let the rest of us know all that she really does know. Her teachers can't test her if she won't talk to them. They can't report on what she knows if she won't reply when they ask her questions. Right now, she'll talk to Mrs. A. I have high hopes that days working directly with Mrs. A next year will help Olivia build confidence in herself and her own abilities and knowledge.