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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Out of my comfort zone

Hi Everyone. Life has been crazy for me this month due to the course I am teaching. It's been a great experience teaching but a huge time commitment.

Ellie is doing well in her new classroom this year. They are definitely feeding her brain. We are a little concerned with her positioning needs and it feels a little bit like we have traded some things for others. That's not a good feeling. I sometimes think I am the only one who remembers that she is really just 5. Though she will be 6 in November she should have been turning 6 in February. I am worried about her emotional needs. Because though she is wowing everyone with her spelling and reading and finger spelling and computer work at school, I am asking myself, questions like:

When I was 5 in kindergarten we did crafts and music and colored and had naps. It was all play based learning. And then in first grade it was table work, group work on academics. But when I did it I was 6. Not 5. So is this ok to have put her in that environment and ask her to give up so many things she loved about being in preschool?  Instead of swimming twice a week she does it once. Instead of getting to roll on the jumpoline (this huge blow up trampoline) she goes on field trips  - meaning more sitting and more sitting versus stretching out.

It just seemed like the pre-school was more fun for her. I do know that there were times when the rest of the class would be doing some play type learning activity and Ellie would pick to read a book. She did get the reputation there as being a bit of a nerd. So there is evidence that she needed a more academic approach. But I'm worried. 

I want her to be happy. I want to protect her spine from curving which is why Dave and I are both worried about making sure she is allowed to stretch out  - throughout the day - not just in the afternoon and not just once. I am worried that her AFO's are not being checked enough and she will get another pressure sore. I am worried that some of the basic goals like working on potty training have fallen off the radar. 

What really sucks is the guilt I feel because I am away from her. And I won't be able to sit in with her at school until next week. That is three weeks of just dropping her at the door and letting her fend for herself in a new situation that I am finding it very hard to get any insight into. It's like pulling teeth to get information from the new crew in the new class.  I am sure my lack of comfort with the new situation is due to the imbalance of information I have about her day compared to the huge number of questions I have. 

I guess I am learning what I am teaching my class and what I talk to my clients about all the time - people will support change that they help to create. I see how this works in reverse. We were told that Ellie would be moving up. It definitely was not our idea. It didn't feel like we had any say. We could have fought it but any parent knows how stressful fighting their kid's school is.  And we trust her new school. They have been so good for her and good to us. That is also part of the reason we were caught off guard with by having concerns about a situation that seemed flawless for the past year and a half. 

So maybe I am just resisting the change because I can no longer imagine every bit of Ellie's day and feel that she is safe?  I have lost that competency for now and have to make new relationships with the new crew - which seems really difficult when I am working so much and their personalities are so different from the old crew who were markedly outgoing and information giving.

The good news is, I think Ellie is managing well.  She has not been exhibiting any of the behaviors she does when things are really bad. She doesn't wake up screaming. She is not extra clingy. She did cry the first week each day at points. I assume out of frustration in the process of having to get to know new people and being exposed to new things. And fair play to the new team for letting us know. I assume she has not cried since.   I think too I am extra protective of her because of her rough start in life. I think she has suffered enough and I want her days, every day to be good - really good. I know that is not realistic but I will certainly try to realize that goal for her as long as I am breathing. 

On the up side she has taken to working on the school's computers - which she would not touch last year (though she would touch our laptops at home the big ones at school made her upset) and that is huge progress. She seems really attached to the new teacher and teacher's aids. She seems happy.  And she is tired at the end of her day - which I hope is a good kind of tired - the kind of tired you get when you have been engaged in interesting activities and fun. But I just am not 100% sure - and that bugs me!

Still trying to find the balance and looking for the new comfort zone in all this change.


Anonymous said...

I have one suggestion....go to your home state's Benchmarks, Standards or here in Michigan we call them GLCE's and take a look at kindergarten expectations. They are nothing like what you and I experienced in kindergarten. There's math, reading, writing, science, social studies, etc. The children have very little time for play/social skills.

Katy said...

My MIL teaches kindergarten here in Louisiana and she says it's all work and no play. They even took away experiments saying that the kids could do science worksheets instead--they take up less time. All this focus on testing and NCLB makes school a lot less fun.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately its all changed from our day. Its all work, work, work, test, test, test and no play now - not even for the little ones. I often wonder how years into the future how all these very recent changes in the way children learn and play in a school situation will pan out when they go out in to the real world as young adults and beyond.

Rick said...

Chiming in from NY,
My 3 kids also did way more work in Kindergarten than I expected, and the lack of interest of having the parents in the classroom was hard for me. 1st grade was even more of a transition to no play and more homework than I remember in the 70s. If ellie is doing ok on all levels then I think that is the most important. Although I do think you should push for having her be able to stretch out more frequently, they should be able to accomodate that as a necessity for her physical well being. All the best.

Anonymous said...

Ellie is only 5 as you rightly say. It sounds to me like she is doing really well. Kids often concentrate on acquiring a new skill and then forget a bit about the others. E.g. Marco was talking very early, yet walked late. Magnus barely says Mama, but he's running all over. Give Ellie some time to assimilate the new stuff. And then see how to fit in the stretching and rolling she needs.

Another thing. Because we expect problems with our special needs kids, we often lose sight of what is fair to expect of any child at a particular age. I now see Magnus doing things at a particular age which I perceived with Loren as being abnormal only because Marco didn't do things the same way. Stupid of me!

Tiffany and Jason said...

Hey Kathryn, I miss you and would love to catch up. Sounds like your days are a whirlwind, but I'm so glad to hear that you are sharing so many of your bright talents by teaching! I miss Ellie and hope that you are all doing well. I share your frustration with the difficulty of Ellie's seizure meds and management. I wish it were simpler... but what Warrior Princess has simple tail to tell right?! She sounds like she is doing some amazing things. Please call me when you can. Love, Tiff

Anonymous said...

I hope that something can be worked out to find the appropriate balance between academics and play in Ellie's school situation. I also hope you are enjoying teaching your classes. This year, I am doing my first real research project (an undergraduate individual study with a mentor). I am very excited. Someday, I may teach university like you.

Unknown said...

Ellie sounds like my Regan when she was younger.....I do have to tell you though Regan (12 yr old with CP) is now a complete computer drives us nuts. If I would have know encouraging her on the computer to find her own little niche...would be so consuming to her, I would have dragged her behind outside