Can I just be vulnerable for a second?
Some days you completely win as a parent and your kid uses their manners, follows the rules and even eats their vegetables. Other days you send your kid to Sunday school in yesterday’s clothes with an applesauce pouch and some crackers in a zip bag for breakfast. Because, you know, you pick your battles.
My kid handled kindergarten like a boss.
She loved being in school and the weekends struck her as too long to be away. She constantly talked about her teacher, her classmates and what they were learning.
I am a realistic parent. She wasn’t top of her class, but she loved learning and I couldn’t have been happier. As far as I am concerned, the love of learning lends itself to the stick-to-itiveness that is critical in learning.
So first grade rolled around and I couldn’t wait for her to meet a new teacher and have new friends and learn some brand new things! I was excited for her to enter back into an environment in which she thrived.
And then it happened.
I got an email from her first-grade teacher with her name in the subject line. Did she go to the nurse today? Fall down on the playground? Perhaps have an interaction with another student that I need to know about?
No. Her grades were slipping.
My working-mom guilt set in. I felt like a total failure and had an overwhelming urge to quit everything just to focus on her little needs. I reasoned that this was likely unrealistic and the first step was to talk with her teacher. The appointment was set. As I prepared for the meeting, I realized I had no idea what questions to even ask; I felt helpless.
The most valuable thing I took away from that meeting was that not only does my kid’s teacher teach my kid; she teaches the parents too. Our kindergarten teacher had trained us. We knew her communication style, she was explicit when it came to instructions about homework and she really taught us a lot about how to be a parent of a school-aged child.
First grade was different.
I am sure this was a no-brainer for most of you, but here are some things I picked up in my meeting.
1. Teachers tell you to read for 30 minutes a night with your kiddo. We were doing just that.
Here’s the fine print. Reading with your child for 30 minutes every night does not just consist of reading. It is also asking questions to test comprehension. It’s reading specific books that have words they can follow along with. It is testing your child’s imagination based on the story they are weaving in their head. Perhaps it is asking your kiddo to identify sight words on the page if they see them.
2. Did you know there are such things as nonsense words? And they play a valuable part in learning to read?
I sure didn’t. But I do now. I have now found a brand new use for that old Boggle set we have stuffed in a closet somewhere. Scrabble, anyone??
3. Teachers have fun pet-names for things that explain the -isms of the English language.
Trying to find the right words to explain to a first-grade student why the letter a in the word “gate” says its name? Teachers have already figured this out. Ask what these are and start using the same terms with your kiddos when you are reading together. Using the same jargon like “magic e” or “letter teams” will help solidify those concepts during your reading time.
We are not out of the woods yet.
We are half way through the season and just found out that half of the team (that would be my kid’s parents…) were not even in the same ballpark as she has been. (This zip-bag-breakfast moment is brought to you by yours truly.)
Luckily, I think our team has what it takes to hear a good locker-room pep talk over halftime and turn it around in the second half. But, man has this particular lesson been a tough one to learn; and it has only begun.