First of all, I want to thank everyone who responded to my previous blog post in comments and on Facebook. I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful it was to hear your thoughts. Before I poured my heart out to the world and had a chance to read your comments, my husband and I felt alone in this fight. We do not any more. We were relieved to hear how many of you have been in similar situations and to learn from your experiences. Hearing different perspectives has been so invaluable. Some of you believe in skipping grades, others do not. That was important for us to understand. Based on your feedback, Paul and I decided that we had to go back and ask a couple more questions.
Yesterday, I had volunteered to help with an activity at the school. While I was there, I talked briefly to the teacher. I had been meaning to ask her where Nia falls on the achievement scale in the class but forgot. Based on the teacher’s feedback, we thought Nia was at the bottom of the scale, dragging everyone down. Well, it turns out that wasn’t the case. The teacher said Nia was not below the lowest achievers; she is below average. Now, I know some of you will think I am a nut but I found that very encouraging. You see, Nia has missed 4 months of second grade work and she was still doing better than some kids, who had been there working on that material for months. That to me was a big indicator that Nia can totally close the gap.
It was also interesting to observe the teacher. She seemed uncomfortable. I could see she was trying to be nice and helpful. She wanted to talk more. I didn’t want to be in her way but I listened to her because this was about our daughter. She told me that she was trying to give me her perspective as a parent and to warn me that skipping can have unintended consequences down the road.
She talked about things like drivers’ licenses and wasn’t I worried that Nia would be younger than the rest of the kids in her class when that time came. Well, no, I said, because kids don’t get their licenses at the same time any way. Even if she stayed in first grade now, some kids will get their licenses before her, others after her. Besides, I said, by then we may be living in a country where people just use public transportation. That was never an issue for me growing up in Eastern Europe.
Then she talked about drugs - wasn’t I worried about drugs. Of course, I worry about drugs (and lots of other things), I said, but I felt that it was not really relevant to the decision at hand. I hope I don’t jinx us by saying this but there are so many other factors involved when problems with driving and drugs arise. I hope by the time things like that become potential concerns, we would have prepared Nia to make the right choices. But, yes, I do know that bad things sometimes happen to good kids (and to kids with good parents) and I do worry about that.
She proceeded to tell me that she had a child, who she had the opportunity to move up when he was Nia’s age. She chose not to do that because she was worried about things like driving and drugs and she just didn’t think it was the right thing to do. She didn’t want to stress out her child unnecessarily. And, yes, the words push and pushy were used again.
That was an aha moment for me. That little tidbit right there explained a lot. It explained why we didn’t see eye to eye with the teacher from the beginning. It also explained her negativity, lack of constructive feedback and encouragement. She simply didn’t believe in skipping grades and wanted to make us feel that way too. Now her comments about Nia being stressed out and not ready and needing to go back and be a first grader (again!) made more sense.
She then asked me if we had talked to Nia to see how she felt. This was a loaded question. You see, in our meeting earlier in the week, the teacher had shared with us that she had talked to Nia recently because Nia seemed stressed. Nia had told her that second grade was a lot of work, that some of her classmates could read harder books and do harder math than her and that did not make he feel good because she wanted to do well. Hearing that kinda broke our hearts because Nia had not said that to us. That’s what made us think we should put her back in first grade. Nia had told us second grade was harder than first but we knew that was going to be the case. We had talked to her about that all along and we had reassured her that we’d be there to help her every step of the way.
I shared with the teacher that we had indeed talked to Nia since the Wednesday meeting and that she surprised us when she said that she wanted to stay in second grade. But it’s a lot of work, we said. Nia’s response was, yes, second grade was a lot of work but she was learning new things and she liked that. On another occasion, she said that being in second grade was a challenge and she liked being challenged. We frankly couldn’t believe she was saying that because we didn’t realize she knew what the word challenge meant (we had not talked to her about wanting her to be more challenged, that was only discussed with her teachers/principals).
The teacher did not like hearing that. Her response, “Well, you can’t let Nia make that decision. She’s only seven.” True but I think how Nia feels is important even though it’s hard to understand how much of what Nia says is how she truly feels vs. what she thinks we/the teacher want to hear.
After the school activity, I also had a chance to talk to the principal alone. I wanted to share with him some of our impressions of the teacher that we didn’t raise in the meeting because we didn’t want to be confrontational. I also wanted to ask if we could put Nia in a different room and see if things work better with a different teacher. I was hesitant to ask that question before because I didn’t want to be demanding and there’s no guarantee that another teacher would embrace Nia and be more supportive. However, after hearing from all of you and talking to the teacher again, we felt it was worth asking the question.
The principal listened to me. Our meeting lasted a little over 30 min. I told him that Paul and I had thought a lot about the situation but in the end do not agree with the teacher and do not find a lot of her arguments convincing. I tried to be objective and not vengeful but told him that we do not feel the teacher was very constructive or encouraging. I also said that we are not happy with how the situation was being handled. I gave him examples. I said we were considering putting Nia back in first grade, even thought we didn’t think that’s a good idea because we didn’t want our child to be miserable. But before we did that, could we possibly explore putting Nia in another classroom. He said that he didn’t think that was an unreasonable request. He didn’t know if he could accommodate it but said that he’d think about it and let us know.
I may be wrong but I felt like the principal was a lot more understanding than the teacher. I felt he didn’t just listen because he had to. I thought he agreed with me on some of the points I made, which made me feel a little better about everything.
So, now we wait and see what the principal says. Stay tuned…