The morning started out well—Lila and I got up, ate breakfast and were off to school. Then, the morning took a turn for the worse.
We arrived at school early, and went into her classroom to practice writing her last name. I regret mentioning to the teacher that Lila was sounding out her letters yesterday on the ride home from school—right after I said that, the teacher did an assessment on Lila. She took a hand-out from a manila folder that had all of the letters (not in order) and started pointing at every letter expecting Lila to sound out each one. Lila tends to get shy in front of teachers—and can shut down quite easily when she feels pressured. After all, she is only five years old. Lila will not answer certain questions, even if she knows it when she feels uncomfortable. For example, the teacher pointed at the letter “A” and asked Lila what it was—Lila sat silently. I could tell that Lila was feeling a bit anxious, and like a numbskull I just made the situation worse by saying: “come on Lila, you know these questions.” Other children started walking into class, which just enhanced her discomfort. I whispered into Lila’s ear: “see, this is why we have to practice our letters at home more.” I’m not exactly sure why I got frustrated, as Lila is just a little kid and will gradually grasp the classroom concepts—I think that some-times my expectations are irrational. I know she is a smart little girl, and she will open up in time. At times I need to be more patient—more supportive.
The morning bell rang, and all of the children sat down in front of the teacher for roll call. Lila looked over at me and her lip started quivering—she reached out her arms, as she wanted me to come hold her and make everything ok. I went over, grabbed her hand and walked her outside of the classroom. I said: “Lila don’t be sad. You are a very smart girl, and we will practice your letters at home. I love you—you are doing great.”
Neither her or I felt much better after the pep talk—she was crying, I was wiping her little tears–and unlike pre-school, I can’t just take her home early and reset the day…make everything ok with ice-cream and playgrounds. She is growing up—and the education system expects children to grow fast…all at the same pace. A common curriculum in a room full of unique personalities—sounds a bit counter-intuitive.
The education system expects teachers to ensure that their students are well prepared for standardized tests—the assessments begin immediately upon arrival in Kindergarten. Is this a bad thing? I know opinions vary. My opinion is that of course tracking student progress is important—but so is the understanding that children are individuals who learn and express themselves differently. I saw today, in my daughter, that many kids do know the answer to certain questions—adults, at times, may just ask the question the wrong way.
I left the school not feeling proud of myself as a father. I stood and peered in Lila’s classroom window until the last tear fell from her cheek.
I left the school not feeling proud—but I did leave with a very valuable parental lesson. As a parent—we can never do everything right, and at times we will feel bad, guilty, sad, etc. It really comes down to, like many things in life: “did we learn from our mistakes?” I know Lila’s personality better than anyone—and as soon as I saw her becoming uncomfortable—I should’ve stopped the teacher and said “I will take this hand-out home—Lila and I will work-hard as a team to grasp all of the letters and their sounds.” Then, I would’ve given her a big hug and said “you did a great job baby. Keep up the good work.” Our kids won’t always get an A on a test, or score the game winning goal—and that is ok—we shouldn’t expect that. What we should expect is for them to try their hardest, and they should expect the same from us as parents.
My child isn’t common, which can be defined as “familiar” or “ordinary”—so maybe she won’t always adapt well to the Common Core Curriculum in school–and that is ok…her differences are what make her my unique Lila.
Lila and I needed to go through this experience today to make our tomorrow, as a family, more loving and productive. Some-times the most valuable lessons in life are learned and best retained as we are getting up from a fall.