red flag?

Mar. 19th, 2012 06:45 pm
flea: (Default)
[personal profile] flea
As you may remember, I've never felt super-great about the kids' current school. It's rated excellent, they have a lot of good enrichment and so forth, but we haven't felt like it's a real community for us, and it seems like there's an excessive focus on test prep and achievement generally.

A couple of weeks ago we did a Girl Scout Cookie booth, and the leader, who has daughters in 6th and 3rd grades, gave me an earful about 4th grade at our current school (unprompted). She said, "4th grade is the year [school] loses kids," and talked about the 3 4th grade teachers who have worked together for 15 years and are very tight, how parents are explicitly discouraged from spending time in the classrooms (despite a school-wide open-door policy), and how they are very hard on the kids, with respect to strictness and high standards. Today Casper told us that her current (3rd grade) teacher gave them a lecture today about how hard 4th grade is, and how if you forget to turn things in you get a 0, and (unlike in 3rd grade) they don't let you correct mistakes in your work for extra points after a first grading. Casper was in tears about this.

So, what to do? I definitely think it's a bad idea to paint the 4th grade as a "make or break" year, presenting a challenge in a negative light, to the children, as Mrs. S did today. Casper now has the impression that the 4th grade teachers are mean.

But aside from the PR problem 4th grade has, is the actuality a red flag, or not? I've been ambivalent about the level of rigor at the school; it certainly feels more authoritarian and focused on achievement in the matter of grades rather than in the matter of understanding than our previous school. I have tried to convince myself that this is a good thing, or at least okay, since Casper has mostly managed to rise to the challenges of lots of homework, and she has a tendency to be a bit lazy and sloppy by her (daydreamy, rushing through boring work) nature. I told myself that the enforced rigor would be good for her, teach her that she can achieve high standards if she pays proper care to her work. Now I'm concerned that the school is teaching her that dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's is more important than love of learning and understanding concepts. Which way is right? Does anyone have experiences with school personalities and the rigor question?

I'm going to an open house on Thursday for the new neighborhood school we'll be eligible for. Unfortunately they won't have 4th grade yet next year, and they won't have 5th grade yet by 2013, so it's not really an option for Casper. There will be someone from the Gifted Academy for 3rd-6th grades which will also be moving into the building. But I'm not positive Casper would be able to get into Gifted by the Ohio criteria, and I have no idea about the environment there. And then we get to think again about magnet schools and private schools, again too late and of course the $ issue.

Next on Woes of Elementary School Parenting, we'll have a fun discussion about social anxiety, brattitude, and your 5 year old. At least he has excellent grades?

Date: 2012-03-20 02:19 am (UTC)
loligo: Scully with blue glasses (Default)
From: [personal profile] loligo
We have been really happy with our school district up till now -- which is fourth grade. It's not so much the amount of work assigned, it's the level of independence that the teachers seem to suddenly expect. Most kids aren't born organized! It takes lots of repetition to get them into the habit of assessing what needs to be done and when!

My mom says that back when I was a kid, my homework became much harder in 4th grade (and I got much unhappier with it). So it seems like maybe there's a prevailing theory that 4th grade is the time to get serious? But my sister just finished student teaching in a 4th grade class, and she says that the teacher she was working with did a ton more organizational support with the kids that what Chuckles is getting.

I don't know. Chuckles is intellectually totally capable of doing the work, but not only is she lacking the organizational skills, she also seems to be lacking in emotional maturity to handle the problem. When people (say, teachers, or parents) get a little frustrated with her continuing inability to remember to turn things in, she freaks out and says that everyone hates her and she must be awful, etc. etc.

So I'm feeling your pain, but I'm not sure that I have any useful advice.

Date: 2012-03-20 04:28 am (UTC)
gchick: Small furry animal wearing a tin-foil hat (Default)
From: [personal profile] gchick
As a not-a-parent, I may need to just stay out of the subject, but exactly why the galloping fuck are they making or breaking anything in the fourth grade?

Date: 2012-03-20 06:12 pm (UTC)
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
From: [personal profile] mme_hardy
"Today Casper told us that her current (3rd grade) teacher gave them a lecture today about how hard 4th grade is, and how if you forget to turn things in you get a 0, and (unlike in 3rd grade) they don't let you correct mistakes in your work for extra points after a first grading. "

I worry that they are managing by fear. This can be really bad for some children -- the children obsess on the fear and never get things done because they are so focused on the fear. (I may have one of these, yes.)

It isn't so much about rigor as about whether they manage by persuasion or by Dreadful Consequences Otherwise. Consequences are good, but telling a sixth-grader that he's ruining his chances at college... really not good.

Date: 2012-03-23 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My oldest's fourth-grade experience was definitely a sharp turn into the land of rigorous academic tidiness. I don't know how much of it was the school policy and how much of it was his teacher, who seemed to be all for strictness for the sake of strictness. He did what she wanted, for the most part -- she always gushed about what a great kid he is -- but he didn't like her class. At parents' nights, the teachers all talked about the increasing responsibility they expected kids to take, but Boy the Eldest took some subjects with other teachers and didn't have the same complaint about them.

My least-compliant child will be in fourth grade next year, and I am wondering if he'll have the same teacher his older brother did. The greater discipline of fourth grade is going to be hard enough without his having a rigid teacher.


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